students in winter coats and gear standing in the snow

Future PE teachers learn how to use nature as a classroom

Ingrid Johnson, professor of movement science, teaches her health and physical education students to go beyond traditional PE activities and use the outdoors.

This semester, students in Johnson’s outdoor education course spend at least an hour of the three-hour class outdoors, while learning how to teach PK-12 students a variety of skills and activities. They participate in snowshoeing, geocaching, slacklining, hammocking, fishing and other activities that focus on nature literacy.

“My main goals in this class are to expose my students to the important aspects of physical education that can be done outdoors," Johnson said. "I want them to think outside the box. I want them to become comfortable with teaching outside and to learn about the resources we have available to us out in nature. 

“They can then go out as a teacher and add some of these activities to their physical education curriculum, to give these opportunities to young students.” 

Ingrid Johnson, professor of movement science, stands outside and talks to students
Ingrid Johnson, professor of movement science, created the outdoor education course two years ago.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Johnson’s class is currently open to only health and physical education majors, but she hopes to create a similar general education course for students from all majors to join.

“This course is something different, and a good reminder that we need to take a step away from technology, and so many other things, to just be outside,” Johnson said.

She said the course was created two years ago after the Physical Education major and Health Education minor were combined into one comprehensive major, due to state requirements. 

“As we were making all these changes to our program, one of the things I knew was missing from our curriculum was an outdoor education class, and I knew that I really wanted to teach it,” Johnson said.

a student sits in a tree
Snowshoeing, geocaching, slacklining, hammocking, and fishing are some activities over the semester.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
student throws a snowball
Johnson hopes to create another outdoor education course open to all majors.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

To make sure all of her students stay warm during class, Johnson collects donations of winter clothes for students who need them.

“I have made a little closet with some boots, coats, hats, gloves, scarves,” she said. “It’s a good start, but I’d like to keep building it because I have some students who may need to keep some of the gear they don’t have."

To donate winter clothing, send Johnson an email at [email protected]. Winter clothing donations can be left at the Movement Science Department office, Kindschi Hall, fourth floor.

-- by Camryn Snider, student writer


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