The Fun Never Stops: A Childhood Favorite Makes An Appearance in Phys Ed
Color is scarce in the Staples fieldhouse. Its dull crimson floor and faded cinder walls are illuminated by little more than flickering fluorescent lights strung onto high girders. But all that changes once the parachute comes out.
A billowing mass of color that is frequently regarded as the domain of elementary schools, the parachute has found its niche as an activity in Staples P.E. classes.
“It’s an opportunity to play in a relaxed, non-competitive situation, which kids really enjoy,” said physical education teacher Marce Petroccio, who uses the parachute in his junior gym class “every once in a while.”
P.E. teacher Janet Zamary has been using the parachute for eight years in both her sophomore classes and the adapted P.E. program, which is part of the special education curriculum. Zamary praised the parachute’s versatility, which allows it to be used for different purposes in each of her classes.
“The parachute is usually used in high school to teach teamwork, cooperation, and communication,” Zamary said, “but my adapted classes can use it to improve fitness and directional skills.”
The difference in activities is easy to spot in the eight-page manual on parachute games. For instance, regular gym classes may play “rollerball,” in which students try to move a large ball around the edge of the parachute without it flying off.
But students in the adapted courses might simply wave the parachute up and down, exercising their arms while launching a rippling breeze through the thick fieldhouse air.
But according to Zamary, the vast majority of students share the same favorite activity: “The Mushroom,” an elementary school classic in which students fan out the parachute and sit down on the edges to form a tent.
Zamary and Petroccio both use the parachute as part of the New Games unit, which emphasizes strategy-based and cooperative activities over traditional sports. However, not every New Games teacher uses the parachute.
“I haven’t experimented with the parachute because I have plenty of new games that work extremely effectively,” said C.J. Shamas. “I’m confident that students enjoy the unit.”
But while they may enjoy the unit as a whole, students tend to split up when given a choice between the parachute and another activity.
“Kids that like cooperative games seem to prefer the parachute more,” said Zamary.
Petroccio noticed a similar split when using the parachute in his classes.
“The parachute is not for everyone,” said Petroccio. “Mostly girls enjoy it—I’m not sure why.”
Felicia Sych ’13 was in a class that was given a choice between basketball and parachute games. According to Sych, only girls chose to use the parachute.
“We all wanted to do something less competitive and aggressive than the guys,” said Sych. “I like some gym activities more than the parachute, but it can be a fun break to do something less physical for a change of pace.”
Although Ross Dener ’13 hasn’t used the parachute since freshman year, he agreed with Sych’s assessment.
“It gives the kids who might not be good at regular gym sports a chance to shine,” he said.
But even if it’s only unfurled every now and again, the parachute leaves its mark on the Staples fieldhouse, radiating color in an otherwise dreary room.