Each year, when the 8th-grade gym is set for archery, seventh-graders look in with envy. “Why don’t we get to do archery?” they ask.
It isn’t a simple answer, but it starts with the curriculum. According to the FCPS website, The Health and Physical Education Program (PE), “is designed to teach students the skills, knowledge, and attitudes essential to live a healthy lifestyle.” Specific activities mentioned are broad categories such as fitness and conditioning, rhythmic activities and dances, and lifetime sports activities.
PE in eighth grade is different from seventh, for multiple reasons. According to Ms. Shapiro, a seventh grade PE teacher, one reason is that they don’t want to repeat units from one year to the next.
“I do think we have a good balance of what to have in each grade. It gives the kids a chance to be exposed to all of these different sports instead of repeating it every year. Because then, they would lose interest.”
At Longfellow, the PE units are divided between the seventh and eighth-graders based on maturity and other factors.
“Seventh graders have more of the sports that they already know like basketball, soccer, and football. We get to do volleyball, archery, and tennis to balance things out,” described Mr. Stokes, an 8th grade PE teacher.
One of the reasons for the different units is the level of danger and difficulty. There is a ton more danger in wielding a bow than in wielding a basketball. That’s one reason archery remains in the 8th grade.
“They understand the rules and the expectations of the PE program here,” Ms. Shapiro said.
There are more precautions needed for safety in the archery unit. Physical ability and space are also part of the equation.
“I think archery is where it should be. The strength to pull back the bow is a little harder, plus this gym is bigger,” said Mr. Stokes.
That doesn’t mean they aren’t open to change. This year, the 7th grade PE department started a golf unit, which is new to the curriculum. Mr. Stokes said that if he could add anything, it would be some sort of martial arts or wrestling. The department remains open to suggestions.
“We always embrace students’ opinions,” said Ms. Shapiro. “And even though they can’t really dictate what we teach, we love ideas on how we can maybe change what we currently teach and how we can make it more exciting or tweak it a little bit so that it satisfies students, but still under the standards of what we have to teach.”