UNT College of Education students learn by teaching

For a while on Thursday morning, the gym at the University of North Texas Physical Education Building was like any other basketball court with the sounds of squeaking sneakers and the bouncing balls filling the air. 

There was even the occasional swish of the net.

But the noise level took a dramatic turn when kids from the Denton Parks and Recreation summer camp program arrived for the second day of class with Karen Weiller-Abels’ Pedagogical Skills, Strategies, and Management in Physical Education and Movement for Children.

“What our students learn in this class is the importance of physical education for children,” Weiller-Abels said. “They write lesson plans and get to put it into practice.”

Weiller-Abels is an associate professor in the Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation Department and is the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Curriculum. Her class consists primarily of early childhood education through 6th-grade (EC-6) majors. Many of the EC-6 majors plan to teach in an elementary classroom. Some have a focus in Bilingual Education, ESL, or Special Education. Students who are seeking an all-level (EC –12) teaching certification in physical education also take the class. Through a partnership with the city’s parks and recreation summer camps, about 75 kids were brought to UNT two times for the students to teach them various physical activities and skills. At one station, kids learned the basic principles of holding and using a hockey stick, while at another, they rolled large felt dice to determine which exercises they would try next. There were several other stations spread out across two gyms where the UNT students worked with the kids combining physical activities with other content.

Natalie Belokin, a senior interdisciplinary student, said she is interested in “brain breaks” such as getting students up and having them toss a softball around while naming the state capitals or other facts.

“This has really stressed the importance of getting kids up and moving,” Belokin said.

Amanda Cantu, a senior majoring in kinesiology, also said the class shows the importance of physical education for young people.

“I want to do strength conditioning with little kids, and this is teaching me how to set that up,” Cantu said.

Another kinesiology major, senior Austin James, said he hopes to coach middle school children after college.

“This is what my degree will be in, so it is important to have this kind of hands-on experience,” he said.

Weiller-Abels said the purpose of the program is to give students a chance to put into practice what they’ve learned about working with kids. 

“Some of the students have had experience working with children before, but not many in a setting like this,” she said.

The Pedagogical Skills, Strategies, and Management in Physical Education and Movement for Children course looks at the effective use of communication and pedagogical skills and strategies to enhance student engagement and learning by highlighting movement education theory and application. It is part of the UNT College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation, which has 1,600 majors studying to be professionals in a wide range of fields including sport, health and fitness, physical education, corporate, community and public health, community and private recreation programs and acceptance into graduate education for allied health careers.