In the Gymnasium


Twenty four children filing into the gym, a space about 20 by 40 with a wall-wide, wooden climbing rack at one end. During the half hour, when any children did not want to play some game or other he might climb around on that climbing rack, come sit on the sawhorse where I was standing, or sit against the opposite wall. It was common for several children not to join each game.

During the period, I recall 5 games being played:
ICICLES — a few children are ‘it’ in the center of the gym; the others at command run lengthwise to the gym’s other end; anyone tagged should ‘freeze.’

COWBOYS AND INDIANS — a chase game with two teams; one team hides its eyes against the wall; as the second team sneaks up on the first, the teacher intones, “Oh, you sleepy cowboys, you’d better wake up. Here come the INDIANS!!!”; with this cry the cowboys chase the indians across the gym.

BATTLESTATIONS — a general exercise game in which the children leap to stereotyped postures (e.g. at attention, saluting for “here comes the captain”) or actions (e.g. swimming gestures for “here comes a shark”) when the teacher gives commands. These were usually given in pairs, the exercise value in going from one state to the other — port/starboard here comes the captain/all hands on deck naptime/chowtime

FIRE CHIEF — one child is the chief, getting to select which of three teams responds to the teacher’s alarm: “Fire, fire, fire: alarm at station. . .” When the chief yells his number, the selected team members race to the climbing rack, climb far enough to tag the top, then race to the opposite end of the gym. The winner of the race gets to be the new chief.

ANIMAL FARM — this final game of the period is the decrescendo of the hectic excitement of gym. The children sit in a circle. The teacher, in the center, covers the eyes of one child who must guess the identity of another, selected from the several who volunteer to make animal sounds.

After gym, the children spilled back into kindergarten, where
they began, relatively slowly, to pick up the variety of materials they
had so liberally scattered before gym.


The observations focus on an important part of the world of Miriam’s peers, and her standing apart from that. I infer that, because of her limitations and specific experiences, she has a different framework for thinking about gym activities from her peers.

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