Impacting High Schoolers! Pilates In Physical Education Class

The story begins in 2003, when I started my Pilates Comprehensive Training and quickly after started traveling and doing Mat teacher training. The same year I started teaching high school Physical Education. I added Pilates to the Aerobics program I taught. It was a part of, but not the focal point, of my classes. Fast forward to 2007, where I switched schools and began teaching the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (IBMYP) Physical Education program. I asked if I could take the Pilates mat workshop training I had been doing and make it a semester course. To my delight, they said YES and Pilates as a semester course in a High School Physical Education class began.

High school student doing Pilates mat workoutAs part of the IBMYP students are required to write three papers, and do both a group presentation and an individual presentation. The first paper is about the evolution of Pilates (i.e. how did it grow from Joseph Pilates to twelve million practitioners?). The second paper details how Pilates has affected the students personally –  how have they changed emotionally and physically? They have personal resources to pull from, as I require them to keep a process journal. After every class they document how they feel. The third is a comic strip representing the exercises they choose for their group presentation. In the presentation I require them to teach five mat exercises and put together a full class with their group, which is then videoed. Finally comes the individual presentation. Each student is given 10 exercises to work with and I pick two at random for them to teach to the class. In fact, in 2010 I wrote my own mat manual featuring the class of 2012. The manual was written by me but features the students doing the exercises. I asked for volunteers and we took time out of class to shoot it. They loved being in it and even asked for copies to keep.

To say it has been a rewarding experience is an understatement. The students become mini teachers and it is amazing to behold. Their papers discuss how Pilates affects their sports, their emotions, even their academics. As adults we know how amazing Pilates is, and to see them realize it as tenth graders is a joy.

High school student doing Pilates mat workoutThey often come back to visit and show me that they can still do the Hundred. I receive emails after some have graduated telling me how Pilates was the first Physical Education class where they did not feel as if they were in competition with other students. In one email a student confessed that as an overweight teen, Pilates gave her confidence. The papers the students write also talk about how Pilates helped with their body dismorphia and depression.

Recently we watched the Pilates movie, A Movement of Movement and in it Mary Bowen talks about how Joseph Pilates wanted Pilates in schools. As far as I know, nine years ago we were the first school to have Pilates as a semester course. When I told them that after the movie they cheered!

As we go into year 10, I hope that more people will be inspired and want to work with kids. I could not be more blessed to have the opportunity to teach teens the gift of Pilates.