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The Importance of Holistic Physical Education from a Young Age

“Even if you lose, is being a good teammate important?” Holly Younglove, the Physical Education/After-School-Activities Coordinator at International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) asked the dozen-or-so students gathered in front of her.

The thoughtful answers revealed how students learn far more in PE classes than just how to kick a ball or run fast; they learn how to mature as young people. 

When the students went back to their activity pretending the rooftop field was water and they were ocean explorers tasked with working together to collect rare coral, Holly sat down with Saigoneer to discuss the philosophy behind ISSP’s physical education program. It is not only “as important as literacy and numeracy in a child’s life,” she explained, but an opportunity to reinforce the skills and lessons young students learn throughout school. ISSP’s holistic approach to physical wellness stimulates the mind and body and helps children develop as well-rounded, confident, healthy individuals.

Physical education creates a chance to re-enforce important concepts like cooperation, listening, following rules and the value of exploration.

Rather than just tell the students to be good teammates, or instruct them on how to work together to accomplish a task, Holly invited them to ask questions and provide their own solutions which allows them to take ownership of their learning. They have the freedom to explore and practice thanks to ISSP’s spacious rooftop field, modern gym and two additional rooms filled with enrichment equipment where the regular PE classes and recesses are held. In addition to providing important exercise and fitness opportunities that cultivate flexibility, mobility, muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance, Holly and the other PE teachers use the time there to re-enforce important concepts like cooperation, listening, following rules and the value of exploration. 

One of ISSP’s strengths is its small size which allows for more intimate interactions between students, parents and teachers. Teachers can personalize activities and feedback for each student based on what they learn about each individual from other teachers. And as a Cognita member school, the entire staff receives extensive training regarding how to best care for children. Their dedication is evident in even small details, such as Holly asking if every student had their water and providing hats for them to wear before going into the sun. Similarly, staff monitors air quality and plans class locations accordingly.

Teachers supervise students at all times, including during their favorite activity: the annual school-wide Color Wars. Each student is sorted into a house, not unlike Harry Potter, and once a year they compete in a variety of activities including a scavenger hunt, charades and a scooter race. While fostering camaraderie and good sportsmanship, the day is an opportunity for the kids to have fun, an important part of developing a positive relationship with school.

At ISSP, teachers supervise students at all times.

 In addition to being a lot of fun, PE education can have significant positive impacts on student safety. A majority of children in Vietnam do not know how to swim which poses a serious problem in a coastal country with many rivers and lakes. Thus, ISSP provides mandatory 12-week swimming and water safety classes for all students to help them understand how to behave responsibly when in and around water.

ISSP provides mandatory 12-week swimming and water safety classes for all students.

ISSP students also learn how to look to the natural world for inspiration and enjoyment. The youngest learners take regular trips to the school garden to connect with nature while older students take advantage of a special partnership with Cát Tiên National Park. During their overnight stays in the park, they learn about rice planting and harvesting and have an opportunity to practice tangible life skills like how to cook an egg in a supervised setting. 

ISSP students learn how to look to the natural world for inspiration and enjoyment.

 A close connection between parents and educators is of the utmost importance and something ISSP prides itself on. Because the classes are small, families can have regular, easy conversations with teachers. In addition to informal availability, ISSP faculty members hold regular workshops and events to keep families informed of school activities and discuss ways they can support the school’s philosophies at home. Holly explained that she occasionally discusses with parents the value of physical education and how it might differ from what parents expect.

ISSP faculty members hold regular workshops and events for parents.

 Nutrition is another important topic that ISSP discusses with families. Students are provided healthy, balanced meals in class as well as simple advice such as why they should eat fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water. In easy-to-understand explanations, teachers set the foundational knowledge that one must eat well and exercise to have a healthy body which is essential for learning in class.

Students are provided balanced meals and foundational knowledge to have a healthy body.

During last year’s challenging stretches of remote learning, many people came to realize the importance of physical health. Staying active and practicing healthy nutrition and exercise are essential for one’s overall well-being. As Holly notes, “Physical education isn’t simply an option or just another class. Physical education helps students to develop confidence and competencies that will become integral throughout their lives, in and outside of school.”

International School Saigon Pearl's website

+84 (028) 2222 7788

92 Đ. Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh, Phường 22, Bình Thạnh, TPHCMC

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