It reinvigorated my passion for teaching and brought my two majors together.
To encourage girls to become more physically active, aspiring teacher Erin Young, ’24, turned the repetitiveness of exercise into an unpredictable game.
Erin, who worked with Taunton youngsters as part of a Bridgewater State University class, designed dice with exercises rather than numbers on their faces. Girls built their own dice and used them to determine what physical activities to perform.
“It gave me more experience teaching things to the age group I want to teach,” said Erin, an elementary education and health studies major from Chelmsford. “It reinvigorated my passion for teaching and brought my two majors together.”
The experience was part of a unique collaboration between health and physical education classes taught by Drs. Maura Rosenthal and Angela Bailey of the Department of Health and Kinesiology. Both courses explore health and physical activity through a social justice lens, including the role of socioeconomic status.
The classes met together throughout the fall semester and traveled regularly to Taunton. Working in the community provided experiential learning opportunities that purely theoretical conversations couldn’t match, Bailey said.
“The world is a connected place and to solve big problems we need to work together,” Rosenthal said of the importance of the classes collaborating.
While exploring Taunton, students noticed the prevalence of convenience stores and relative lack of supermarkets that sell affordable healthier foods. They presented recommendations to Taunton Mayor Shaunna O’Connell that included launching a gardening initiative.
Each student also developed a lesson plan that they implemented with help from their classmates during visits to Girls Incorporated of Taunton, a nonprofit offering after-school, vacation and summer programming.
They led activities girls were excited to complete and served as role models, said Jessica Johnstone Darling, the organization’s executive director.
“Demystifying what it looks like and feels like to be a college student is a huge benefit,” she said. “Anything we can do to break down obstacles is a huge need of ours.”
Some children served by Girls Inc. don’t have easy access to exercise and health programming, said Breanna Pickering, ’23, who led activities using a large parachute.
“It was really rewarding to work with the girls and put a smile on their faces and make a difference,” said Breanna, a public health major from Braintree. “It was an awesome experience.”
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