“Turtle, turtle, turtle,” bellows Bell Elementary physical education teacher Mike Karlson to pairs of students on a wrestling mat.
As his voice reverberates around the walls of the school’s gymnasium, students race to see which one can be the first to grab a rubber ball, then curl themselves over it with their body.
Their partner then tries to flip over that student and wrest the ball from their arms. Formally, the unit is called combative activities. You can call it wrestling 101.
“It’s the best lesson I ever had in my life because it’s fun and I get to flip,” said 5th grader Brendan Ventura.
The unit began with introductory activities such as thumb wrestling and arm wrestling.
“The first part of the lesson is confidence. A lot of this has to do with balance and strength. We also have conversations about science and physics,” said Karlson.
Many of those conversations have to do with what can be shown on the mat, such as how body positioning and body weight can effect balance. A number of the positions the students learn in this unit will transfer to a stunts and tumbling unit later in the year.
Also, safety is the priority in class. Students have a word to use when they want their wrestling partner to stop the activity. When students hear that word, they know to relax their muscles and get the teacher’s attention.
“This is a lot of introductory-level activities. We’re not putting pre-k through 5th grade students into advanced situations. It’s more about science and body position,” said Karlson.
Karlson isn’t alone in sharing these lessons with the students. Members of the Black Knights wrestling team have joined the Bell PE classes to help teach.
“I started wrestling when I was really young. I saw the sport with my brothers. These guys don’t have the opportunity to be exposed to it. This is a chance to develop a love of wrestling at a young age,” said junior wrestler and Bell Elementary Alumnus Troy Hayes. “These guys are a lot quicker learners than I was.”
“It’s great that they’re taking part. You can feel the excitement as we build that mentoring relationship,” said Karlson.
“I never knew this would be that fun, but when I started, I thought, this is pretty fun,” said 5th grader Stella MacBlane.