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Harry Hoag Elementary students overcoming obstacles

The elementary gymnasium is a busy place in these days leading up to Christmas break. Chants of “beat that wall” fill the halls as students encourage each other to strive to reach the top of the warped wall – just one of the many new obstacles students are overcoming through determination and creativity as part of an “American Ninja Warrior” unit in their Physical Education classes.

American Ninja Warrior is a television show where both male and female competitors go through a course of physical obstacles which challenge their strength, agility, balance, flexibility and stamina. Several students noted that they were intimidated when they first saw the challenges, but immediately excited once they got to try them and found that they had more “warrior” in them than they knew they had.

FP Jr./Sr. art teacher, Geoff Snyder is currently training and competing, hoping for a chance to appear on the show this spring. The application process includes the submission of a video, highlighting the candidate’s training routine and any other information that will help them to stand out as a “TV-worthy” contestant. Mr. Snyder applied last year and made it quite a way through the process, but just missed the final cut. He is preparing a new application video now, which will be submitted in January.

Knowing about Mr. Snyder’s experience, elementary P.E. teachers Casey Russom and Katie McCumber contacted him about helping them to create an American Ninja Warrior unit for the gym classes. The team got together with the district technology teacher Mr. Kreig Heroth. His engineering class students designed, developed and built several obstacles scaled for elementary students to compete on. The course was set up and unveiled to students on Dec. 19 during a special assembly.

“What’s great about an obstacle course,” said Mr. Snyder, “is that everyone can try and beat it in their own way. The same technique doesn’t work for everyone. There is a great sense of accomplishment each time that you complete an obstacle. It’s a fun and exciting way for our students to not just exercise, but also develop their problem-solving skills, too.”

“In our P.E. department, it is our mission to empower all students to sustain regular, lifelong physical activity as a foundation for high school experiences, and also to lead a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life,” said teacher Katie McCumber. “Incorporating the American Ninja Warrior unit allows the students to be active and have fun while doing it. So many of our students are familiar with ANW and love it! This gives the students a chance to be an American Ninja Warrior and gets them excited about exercising.”

As Mr. Snyder said, “Obstacles are a great metaphor for life. Lots of things stand in our way throughout our lives. We have to find ways to navigate the struggles, the setbacks, and the hurdles that life throws at us.”