Namaste: KNPE students design, market Clinton Rosette Middle School yoga club

Launching a new after-school club is a fount of valuable experience.

Concept. Content. Recruitment. Delivery. Assessment. Modification. Enhancement.

Some students of Marcella Otto and Victoria Shiver in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education can already claim that on-the-ground training on their résumés along with the additional benefit of doing so amid the unique and continued challenges of COVID-19.

Otto and Shiver collaborated last spring with a Dean’s Partnership Grant to create a hands-on (and graded) opportunity for their Huskies after partnering with Clinton Rosette Middle School to make “Mission Yoga” happen and expand its positive impacts.

Between five and 10 adolescent girls consistently attended virtual yoga activities led by Shiver, which also came with reflective discussions of the social and emotional concepts woven throughout the 14 get-togethers hosted via Google Meet.

The middle-schoolers advertised the club to their Clinton Rosette classmates using ideas from Sport Management students and selected its name and logo from choices provided by the Huskies in Otto’s marketing class.

“In my opinion, and in my interactions with the girls and the counselors, I think the program went pretty well,” Shiver says. “The girls created a good sense of camaraderie. They were eager and completely open and willing to share. They learned a lot of yoga moves.”

  • Learn more! Otto and Shiver will host a Dean’s Partnership Grant presentation from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Sept. 29, in Anderson Hall 221 or via Microsoft Teams.
Victoria Shiver
Victoria Shiver

For the Physical Education majors in Shiver’s KNPE 335: Developmental Skill-Based Approach to Teaching course, which provides their first taste of teaching, their toolkit now includes a glimpse at how instructional methods work in different settings.

As a part of their coursework, they were expected to attend at least one after-school session to observe the club and their professor in action.

“My goal with my undergraduate class was to get them some experiential learning experience out in a real-world setting – another thing we were missing out on with COVID-19 – and I wanted them to at least have some interaction with students in the K-12 setting,” Shiver says.

“In the course, they were learning how to teach physical education concepts that are also very applicable in out-of-school-time programming … basic pedagogical strategies like, ‘How are you going to introduce content, or close a class, or demonstrate a skill?’ ” she adds. “They had the opportunity to log into the program to observe and interact with the girls and lead components of those lessons.”

She calls the response of her future teachers “meaningful.”

“Though they were only required to come to one session, they chose to keep coming because they appreciated the interactions they were having, the relationships they were developing and the knowledge they were getting in a real-world setting,” Shiver says.

“Ultimately, the structure was very similar to what a physical education class would look like, so just by being able to be a part of it, they could carry that into their future teaching,” she adds. “Having actual interactions with children or with adolescents cannot be replaced. You have to have these experiences to appreciate them, and then implement them on your own, because relationships are so critical to successful teaching.”

Naturally, the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model that permeates much of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education played an integral role in Mission Yoga.

Shiver provided the Clinton Rosette girls “an equal voice” in the programming along with opportunities to lead after-activity discussions about each week’s social-emotional goal and how they were feeling at the end of the session.

Her group already included some girls identified by the school’s guidance counselor who could benefit from more social interactions with their peers.

“One girl who showed up was very quiet. By the end, she was asking to lead the sessions. Another girl, who I had consistently, said, ‘Virtual learning has been really hard for me. I missed talking with my friends. The yoga program is the best thing that’s happened to me,’ ” she adds. “When you’re not sure if it’s working or not – when you’re just hoping for the best – and you hear something like that, you’re like, ‘OK. It’s working. Even if it’s just for one student, it’s working.’ ”

Those results are equally important for learning of the P.E. majors.

“Social-emotional learning concepts are one of the three pillars of physical education, but it’s really difficult to conceptualize that. Physical, you can see. Cognitive, you can take a test. But social-emotional learning is this abstract idea,” she says. “They got to a chance to see that, and to be a part of putting it into action, so they’ll be able to carry that over into their teaching in the future.”

Marcella Otto
Marcella Otto

Otto’s students in LESM 542: Sport Marketing and Promotions, meanwhile, learned about promotion of a product far outside professional or top-level sports.

That skill is critical, she says, because not every graduate with a sport marketing degree will find a job with a huge, well-funded organization. Many will work for smaller, community-based operations or in recreational settings.

However, she says, the prompts are the same.

“What is the mission and vision of what you are trying to do with the specific plan that you’re coming up with? And what are you focusing on? It is health benefits? Is it raising awareness of the importance of staying physically fit and active? Is it the idea of engaging with your peers due to not being able to be in person?” she says.

“Having a different type of market allows you to think a little bit differently: It’s not the general youth market that you’re going to focus on; it’s young children. What are you able to provide them? How can you generate interest from them? My students had to think from more of a child’s perspective of what would get them excited, engaged and wanting to be part of an after-school program.”

Her students hatched good ideas.

Participation points, including some for leading sessions. Incentives, including free T-shirts with the chosen club logo. Raising funds for yoga mats or yoga blocks through local restaurants. Possible collaborations with NIU Huskie Athletics.

Their creativity yielded success for Mission Yoga, Otto says, and bodes well for their eventual careers.

“It’s about focusing on how we can actually meet what our customers demand,” she says. “We need a vision first. Then, what do we actually want to accomplish? How do we define our target market? What is the demographic? What do we stand for? What do we want to be known for? And how do we make sure that our overall final project is always that type of representation?”

Anderson Hall
Anderson Hall

Meanwhile, she is optimistic about future collaborations with Shiver.

“We both started at NIU together at the same time, and our offices are right across from each other on different sides of the hallway,” she says. “We were very new, we wanted to start something together and we wanted to provide experiential learning opportunities within the NIU area to make sure that our community feels supported through the work that we are doing.”

Shiver feels the same.

“I was new here. I didn’t really know anybody in the community, or what was already rolling, because obviously it was during COVID and it’s really difficult to make those connections,” she says.

“Luckily, I have some great colleagues here in KNPE, so I talked to Zach Wahl-Alexander and Jenn Jacobs, who mentioned the boxing program that they’d had going at Clinton Rosette in prior years, and how it was kind of a bummer because of COVID that they were no longer able to run it,” she adds.

“Through those discussions, and the fact that I knew kids were struggling everywhere in terms of keeping after-school programs going, or having the ability to engage in peer interaction or continued growth in the social aspect, I started to formulate a bit of an idea. Yoga seemed like the best option in being able to move, to still have the mindfulness aspect and to still have that sense of community.”

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