Fully Personalized and Valuable Summer PD

My 7 year old son and I have been having a great week. We’ve visited several sports spaces around the city and he’s participated in floor hockey, tennis, long jump, gymnastics, climbing, swimming, badminton, table tennis and skittles (similar to bowling). Most of this he has been able to do for free, thanks to a great set-up by the City of Vienna. Of the 28 sport offerings available to kids from ages 6-10, 24 run every week of the summer vacation, 18 are free of charge, and 7 can be enjoyed in more than one location. Add to that offerings in arts and crafts, theater and dance, science and outdoor adventures, kids’ college, music and film and you’ve got a summer of amazing possibilities. Some activities do cost a few Euros but it is clear that great efforts have been made to insure affordability and easy access.

From our few outings so far, here are some of the things I’ve noticed:

  • When kids choose their own activities they can often manage extremely well by themselves. Depending on the context, adult moderation/intervention is often unnecessary, once the games are underway. (Amazed watching my son play pick up floor hockey with boys almost twice his size.)
  • Most of the children I observed were highly respectful of each other, of the adults present and generally pretty friendly, welcoming, and easy-going.
  • It has been surprising to see how underused some of the offerings are, especially those which are absolutely free. Great spaces equipped with prepared adults are often ready and waiting for interested folks to show up.
  • The opportunity to observe others giving instruction has been edifying and eye-opening. I picked up some great new cues and activities from the gymnastics warm-up as well as from other sites.
  • At the skittles club, several club members were on hand to work with the kids and get them excited about the sport. Nearly everyone greeted us personally and provided lots of encouragement throughout the 2 hour session. My son can’t wait to play again. Nor can I!  The magic worked.
  • At each of these venues there seemed to be a healthy balance between instruction and freedom to explore. Trying everything was okay. Leaving one thing to go do another and later return was okay. This is something that struck me as extremely child-friendly in these settings.
  • The vast array of offerings has motivated me to stretch myself by venturing into unfamiliar parts of the city to find a gym, field or park.
  • My son’s enthusiasm has stoked my own: to become more of a movement explorer, to try new skills, risk looking silly, and have lots of fun doing it.
  • To all this I must also add our recent discovery of gonoodle.com which is a web-based platform for movement videos designed for kids. It started with “Pop See Ko,” a follow-along song he learned in summer camp and every day since we’ve tried everything from yoga stretches to Zumba to coordination challenges to free movement dances like “Cookie Boogie.”
  • The beauty of this arrangement is that I get to test and explore all these online possibilities with a real-live kid.  His responses give me some indication of which episodes will likely find favor with which age group and help me determine which ones I would enjoy using in class. Much to my own surprise, GoNoodle may become an avenue to “flip” parts of my lessons.
  • These experiences remind me that Professional Development need not come from a conference, book group or online course. Observe someone else giving instructions to others anywhere: in a video, at the doctor’s office, in your yoga class, in a museum. What can you appreciate about the delivery in the given context? What makes the situation appear challenging or easy? How might you approach the situation if you were charged with the same task?
  • There is so much learning to be had simply in venturing, doing, observing, and reflecting. Regardless of what you teach, or your role in education, all of us are primarily in the people business. The more we study and learn about people, beginning with ourselves, the better equipped we will be to handle whatever demands come our way.

I’m looking forward to quite a few more days of high-action movement with my youngest this summer. We’re following an open curriculum. Our essential question is derived from Phineas and Ferb: “What are we gonna do today, Ferb?”


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