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Since 1995, students in Ginny Barnett’s class at Santa Maria High School have been visiting school sites in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District to apply what they learn in the classroom to real life.

The current school year marks the first time that Barnett’s elementary physical education teaching class has focused strictly on Adam Elementary School.

Since school started in August, 30 sophomores make the one-block trip from the high school by foot every Tuesday and Wednesday to teach PE to nearly 300 first- and second-graders. The students will transition to third- and fourth-graders later in the year.

The teaching class spends periods they are not at Adam School researching PE lessons, creating lesson plans and training for engaging the students in activities.

“When we start the class, I ask them if any are interested in being a teacher,” Barnett said. “This is a great opportunity to find out if this is a career path for them.”

Each session lasts 45 minutes, where groups of first- and second-graders rotate through 10 stations consisting of cones, parachutes, balls and toys set up by the sophomores.

“They write a lesson plan for each day we’re here with students,” Barnett explained.

Adam School Principal Laurie Graack and Barnett both agree that the PE sessions at the school are a unique learning opportunity for both the teenagers and the young children.

“We like that (the children) see young people in the community in positions of authority,” Graack said. “We feel part of the benefit is our kids getting physical education and working with (teenagers) in authority.”

To that, Barnett added, “While my students get the opportunity to see if this could be a career for them, the elementary students get to have experience with big kids. It’s always exciting for them.”

First-grade teacher Shannon Porter pulled Barnett aside during the session to tell her how impressed she was with the sophomores after they created name tags that hung by string around the students’ necks.

“They’re interested in learning the kids names,” Porter said. “It’s taking initiative; it’s impressive.”

Porter said her first-graders benefit from interactions between age groups like these because the children look up to them as role models, and the high school students can bring new ideas for her to implement in her class.

Santa Maria High School sophomore Brian Garcia said, “Sometimes it’s a struggle. Getting their attention can be hard, but it’s fun interacting with the kids and seeing them have fun and participate.”

Garcia described his lesson plan with the elementary students for the day as a new one that he found online and put his own twist on, likened to a game of tag and parachute exercise combined.

The group of students he was in charge of flapped the edges of a parachute while two students ran around underneath. As soon as he blew his whistle, the two children would tag two new children to trade places and take their place back outside of the parachute.

Sophomore Destiny Colunga said she remembered when Barnett’s class would come to her school when she was attending Battles Elementary.

“I thought this was cool,” Colunga said, adding that when a friend mentioned the class to her, she decided to take it without hesitation.

“I enjoy the kids,” she said. “They all have different personalities, and I can help them out if they need it. I’ve bonded with a kid who listens to me now.”

“I might want to be a (PE) teacher now,” Colunga said.

Krista Chandler covers education in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast News. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KristasBeat. 

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