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West Seattle Herald
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November 6, 1996     West Seattle Herald
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November 6, 1996
 

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8 Wednesday, November 6, 1996 West Seattle Herald/White Center News McEwan invents new ways to make PE class fun By Tim St. Clair STAFF WRITER Washington's elementary school physical education teacher of the year accepts a hug from a little girl in the middle of the gym floor at Schmitz Park School. Barbara McEwan, a 15-year vet- eran at the school and an Arbor Heights resident, was honored Oct. 25 by the Washington State Alliance for Health, Physical Edu- cation, Recreation and Dance. Last Friday was "Barbara McE- wan Day" at Schmitz Park School. Her fellow teachers wore sports hats in her honor. It's not the first time that McE- wan has brought accolades to the school. Last year was the fifth straight ill which Schmitz Park students have been rated tops in the state in physi- cal fitness. Schmitz Park also won a Presi- dential Fitness Award and placed 10th in the nation. SHE'S CERTAINLY popular with the kids. Dozens of them swirl around her for the 20-minute free period just before school starts. It looks like tryouts for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The gym swarms with kids riding unicycles, climbing ropes, juggling, scrambling around on a large exer- cise apparatus, leaping into double- Dutch jump ropes, balancing atop large balls, walking on big wooden spools and jumping on pogo sticks. "She has lots of stuff for us to play on," says Tyler Ljuvich, a fifth-grade student. "I like how she always gets us to do new things," says fourth-grader Genevieve Shaad. "She just works us until we get it," adds Suzuye Nomqra, also a fourth-grade student. Classmate Tori Enger likes the fact that McEwan lets the kids pick which games they want to play, as long as they've been good. McEwan's trademark is participa- tion. "THE GOAL in P.E. is to find something that every kid likes," she says. She figures out ways to get as many students as possible doing something physical. She wants everybody active most of the time. "I don't want one kid running and all the others watching," she says. McEwan grew up in Belfair and, although she was athletic, there weren't nearly as many opportuni- ties for girls in sports as there are now. She was on the high school tennis team, but the only way for girls to participate in anything else remotely athletic was to be a cheerleader, which she was also. McEwan earned a bachelor of arts degree and a master's degree in education at Western Washington University. More athletic opportuni- ties opened up there, and she learned to love soccer. "I still play on a women's soccer team," McEwan says. MOST SCHMITZ Park students Barbara McEwan (left), clocks Brandon LaVielle as he sets a personal record on gym class at Schmitz Park Elementary School. Bruce Savadow/staff a unicycle during a come to the gym for P.E. threesold nationwide in specialty cata- times a week. Kindergartners are logs forP.E, teachers. there every day. "ABZ cones" are another McE- McEwan's challenge is finding wan idea. new ways to motivate the kids. She Cones with a single letter on them continually comes up with new are scattered at one end of the gym. skills to teach. She puts charts on Then kids must run from the other the walls of the gym that record end of the gym to snatch up cones each child's progress. Kids increase with appropriate letters and run the number of skills they have and back to spell specific words. work to improve their times. ONE NIGHT a week, McEwan On Hal- teaches other loween, McE- teachers how to wan and her stu- iJ use physical anything else. Balance helps them focus too." McEwan and other teachers also keep an eye out for kids who have trouble skipping, jumping rope or doing jumping jacks. Those are signs of a lack of perceptual motor skills, and such kids get extra help. Usually it's not a physical impair- merit that holds kids back, but a couch-potato lifestyle at home, McEwan says. Improvement often comes with simple practice. dent teacher, Ed 66 The goal in PE is to education in OTHER TEACHERS use the Adams from their own class- P.E. program to,reward their own Seattle Pacific find something that es. Her class is students. The promise of time in the U n i v e r s i t y, c o n d u c t e d 'gym is good for classroom disci- came up with every kid likes through Central pline and for getting homework "ghost bowl- ---BarbMcEwan Washington done, McEwansays. ing." McEwan University. Good behavior and completed drew ghostly She's even schoolwork also qualify students to faces on plastic written a bookcheck out unicycles overnight. bowling pins about physicalBy the way, the taxpayers didn't and the kids roll plastic balls at education, pay for the unicycles, climbing them. Part of McEwan's plan is to get apparatus or some of the other She also had a game called "spi- kids to enjoy physical exercise. But equipment in the Schmitz Park gym. der catch," in which a rubber sPider she also sees academic benefits The PTSA bought the first four is bounced off a springboard and the from P.E. unicycles, but students sell choco- studentsmust catch it in a net. "It builds total positive self- late bunnies at Easter to get money McEwan gets some of her ideasesteem," she says. "We have lots of to buy much of the P.E. equipment atconventi0ns and workshops. But kids in special ed who have trouble, at Schmitz Park School, McEwan she's also come up with some of her But they do well at P.E. The same says. own. for some APP (advanced placement Why does she do it? For example, "Chuk-em" is a col- program) kids." orful, five-foot piece of pipe insula- "Juggling helps them focus," "It's the kids," she says. "There tion she invented to help kids in chimes in Adams. "If you're jug- are neat kids here. And we have the wheelchairs play tag. Now the toy is gling, you can't be thinking about best parents around."