Eden School gym class is playtime with a purpose

Excitement fills the room as students walk into the gym at the Eden School. They know gym class is a time for parachute games, group activities, and perhaps even a few minutes of free play.

“We’re really here for the kids to come in, get some exercise, and have some fun,” said Adam Marcus, Eden’s Lead Adaptive Physical Education Teacher. “Our goal is to make gym a fun place where the kids want to come and they’re excited to be here.”

From soccer to scooters, there is no shortage of fun activities to get the students moving. While it may feel like playtime for the students, the gym classes are designed to complement other skills they are learning in the classroom.

All activities are based around students’ IEP (Individualized Education Plan) goals. At the beginning of the semester, teachers determine students’ strengths and weaknesses and develop goals for each student to accomplish. This allows teachers to work toward students’ progression and development at an individualized pace.

The sports and exercises are designed specifically to help students with their gross and fine motor skills, as well as their sensory motor skills. By learning and mastering these skills in the gym, students have an easier time performing a variety of tasks — retrieving items, using utensils during meals, etc. — outside of school.

“It’s celebrating the small things that a lot of us take for granted, and recognizing the challenges that our students have,” said Adam. “When our students do something awesome, we celebrate it.”

At the Eden School, no gym class victory is too small to be celebrated.

“To put in all that work with the student and to see them finally achieve their goal is a really special experience,” said Todd Tracy, Head Adaptive Physical Education Teacher. One year, he spent months working with a student on his climbing skills, helping him learn how to get up and over the ladder. “When he did it for the very first time, the entire room erupted,” said Todd.

The gym class celebrations don’t stop when students accomplish their physical goals. When students go from asking for breaks during class to thanking teachers for letting them participate in the activities, the teachers know they’ve made a positive difference in their students’ lives. “It’s an amazing feeling,” said Adam.