Chris Tamborra loves physical education — and he wants to make sure his students do as well.
After nearly two decades of teaching P.E. to elementary school kids, Tamborra certainly knows the ins and outs of beloved childhood games like tag. But Tamborra also knows that P.E. is more than just running around; it should really be a place where kids feel safe, where they can just play.
It’s one of the reasons Tamborra and fellow P.E. teacher Mark Farnsworth founded “For Great Physical Education,” a consulting group that focuses on the social and emotional aspects of physical activity. The duo created an emotionally-focused P.E. curriculum for fellow instructors, which they have shared at several education conferences. In August, Tamborra will lead a graduate-level course on the topic at the Hall at Patriot Place.
Tamborra’s goal is to help his fellow teachers help their students learn to love P.E. While most children enjoy P.E., many find it to be a scary place, he says. Helping kids get past that fear is a key step in combating childhood obesity, he says.
“If we establish a learning environment where kids love it at an early age, when they get to middle school and high school, it’s not a scary place for them,” Tamborra says. “And our hope for them is they’ll continue to make good choices.”
Tamborra grew up an athlete, playing sports like football, baseball and basketball. He excelled as a wrestler, and even wrestled at Bloomsburg University. So he never doubted that he’d wind up teaching physical education.
The Massachusetts native thought he’d teach high schoolers, but instead began his career at the elementary level, where he’s been ever since. “My joke is I can’t graduate second grade now,” he says, laughing.
Tamborra found that he likes working with younger kids, in part because “they’ll do anything I’ll ask them to do,” something that might not be the case with older kids.
As his career progressed, Tamborra found that he wanted to do something to help kids not just run around, but embrace the social and emotional aspects of physical education. The first few weeks of school, he seeks to create a positive learning environment, and teaches kids why P.E. is important. Tamborra also has his students set goals, does team-building exercises and even has a day when his students get to pick their activity.
But above all, Tamborra tries to instill in his students a love of creative and spontaneous play, so they’ll appreciate their time in gym class.
“Kids need to be able to have a break, kids need to get out and play,” Tamborra says. “I try to make it fun.”
Tamborra joined PreventObesity.net in late April. Click here to visit his leader page. He’ll be teaching his graduate course Aug. 8-10; contact Tamborra or Madeleine Dudley at the French River Education Center for more information on the course.