KOKOMO, Ind. – “Friends, are you ready to play a game?”
The two-year-olds squirm with excitement as Indiana University Kokomo senior Paige Jones holds up a ball, ready to play.
“My friends, what color is this ball?” Jones calls out, and the children yell, “Yellow!” and then begin running in place. The next ball is blue, for touching toes.
“Touch our toes, come back up. Touch our toes, come back up,” Jones continues, keeping excitement in her voice to motivate the toddlers.
As far as the children are concerned, they are just having fun.
They have no idea they are learning literacy and motor skills in the bargain.
“To them, it’s a game,” said Grace Boyd, who teams with Jones to work with preschoolers at Bona Vista. “To us, it’s increasing the height of a jump, increasing the understanding of a jumping jack rather than just jumping up and down, getting kids to be active when they might not have been before.”
Boyd and Jones created the lesson plans with guidance from Angela Coppola, assistant professor of health sciences. Once their pilot program at Bona Vista is complete, they want to share their findings with other early learning centers.
They target activities each week towards age-appropriate physical activity for three classes, and incorporating some of the academic standards teachers are using in their classrooms at the same time.
“I feel like I’m using my degree in a way that helps people, which is what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Jones, from Kokomo. “It’s given me another perspective on working with children that I wouldn't have gotten anywhere else.”
The project builds on Coppola’s previous research, which demonstrated that teachers and internship students can work together to enhance children’s physical activity opportunities in the classroom. Her goal is to help Bona Vista develop children’s physical, cognitive, and social skills, and to develop a long-term internship program.
That type of program benefits not only the interns, but the children at Bona Vista and their teachers.
“The interns have physical and motor development knowledge and planning that the teachers can benefit from, and the teachers have classroom management skills and knowledge about teaching students with special needs, that our interns can benefit from,” said Coppola. “The children are learning cognitive and motor skills, and teachers are learning new ideas and how to deliver physical activity plans through modeling.”
Jones said they’ve learned to think quickly and make adaptations as needed — in a prior week, an older child melted down after not understanding he was supposed to kick a ball to knock down a stack of cups. This week, they had him walk through the cups, then kick it down, and finally kick the ball to complete the task.
“He was able to do the activity without any tears or frustration, with a little extra work,” said Jones, who wants to be an occupational therapist and work with children. “I learned how to better work with kiddos who don’t necessarily understand the way their friends do.”
Boyd, who plans to become a physician’s assistant, gained assurance in her skills through the program.
“I’m more confident in my ability to implement lesson plans and see the progress the kids are making,” the Logansport resident said. “I understand now how to adapt to different students in different environments and different days. One day may be great, while others may be challenging.”
Coppola received a grant from IU Kokomo’s Women of the Well House philanthropy circle to support the project.
Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.