The Pathfinder School: Traverse City Community School

Physical Education

Shape up!

Daily Activity & Facilities

Pathfinder kids are fit and happy due in part to the rich daily diet of physical activity in the woods, climbing the fifty-eight stairs at the center of campus, and periodic instruction in outdoor education and archery. Their parents are fit and happy, too, thanks to the exercise of the stairs, which lead to our elementary campus and afford fabulous views of Grand Traverse Bay and Cedar Lake. Every student, from pre-school to eighth grade, takes physical education, with instruction and play in all major sports and an emphasis on lifelong fitness and the joy of play.

Our forested campus is a twenty-two acre classroom. Our students explore it everyday.

Pathfinder’s athletic facilities include a full-sized gymnasium with three basketball hoops, outdoor tennis courts, playing fields set at the front of the campus and back in the forest on cleared land, and basketball hoops scattered thoughout our two playgrounds. One of those playgrounds is set in the forest atop the campus ridge; the other, set by the gymnasium, was built with funds granted by the Olseon Foundation. In addition, Pathfinder’s waterfront includes a swimming dock and a large collection of canoes and sail boats.


P H Y S I C A L   E D U C A T I O N   P L A N



First, a word on the organization of this document. ‘Philosophy’ refers to the rationale for teaching Physical Education—why it needs to remain a critical part of a Pathfinder education. The two excerpts under the heading ‘Philosophy’ are from different sources: the Michigan state standards and the Pathfinder School website (links below). ‘Practicalities’ refers to how those rationales have been, are, and will be realized at Pathfinder. ‘Finally, ‘Process’ comprises the steps by which Pathfinder teachers and administrators will determine the best means of delivering that as we move forward.



Physical education is a sequential, developmentally appropriate educational program that provides students with the knowledge, skills, fitness, and attitudes necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle. A physically educated person who participates in health-enhancing physical activity:

  • demonstrates competence in selected motor skills
  • assesses, achieves, and maintains physical fitness;
  • applies cognitive concepts in making wise lifestyle choices;
  • exhibits appropriate personal-social character traits while participating in physical activity


Recent research from the University of Illinois confirms what we have long believed: physical activity enhances learning in children. All Pathfinder students, from pre-schoolers through eighth graders, take Physical Education. Pathfinder has a full-sized gym that houses many of these activities. We are focused on lifelong health, emphasizing the good times and good health that result from physical activity. There are games anyone can recognize—basketball, soccer, tennis, kickball—as well as innovative favorites and occasional activities, such as archery and dance, that match athletics with social studies, the arts and other fields. Physical Education at Pathfinder also takes advantage of the campus setting to bring students through the woods on a regular basis, often in hikes, cross-country runs, and epic games of Capture the Flag in our forest. Pathfinder kids can be seen on the front soccer field in all weathers, playing gigantic, shambolic games of soccer and touch football. In terms of multiple intelligences theory, Physical Education engages children’s kinesthetic and interpersonal abilities, providing opportunities for growth and leadership on the playing fields as well as in the classroom. 




Team sports are an essential element of education: students learn collaboration, must demonstrate knowledge publicly, make decisions on the fly, and take instruction responsively. We will continue to value these principles in the team sports program at Pathfinder. Presently, all Pathfinder students have between 90 and 135 minutes per week scheduled for physical activity, a mixture of team sports and lifelong fitness activities. This is, of course, in addition to the many hours spent on our large campus - hiking, exploring and learning from our surroundings.

We presently offer instruction in fifteen different sports, spread across the eleven years of a full Pathfinder education; eight of these are team sports. We will continue to offer instruction in approximately the same number, depending upon the interests of the individual classes and the judgment of the physical education coordinator. Instruction in the social and emotional development inherent in athletics will continue as before, with an increased emphasis upon the following elements of the Physical Education Curriculum in classroom time: Cooperative Games, Safety, Listening, Sportsmanship, Locomotor Skills, Non-Locomotor Skills, and Manipulative Skills.


Our after-school, interscholastic program offers the students the opportunity to play a variety of team sports.  For the time being, our partnership with Traverse City Christian serves the needs of both our small schools, but in the long run we will be better served to offer independent Pathfinder teams in girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, as well as the track and cross-country teams we already field.


Lastly, we will continue to emphasize physical activity in the course of students’ classwork, in keeping with research on the value of exercise and the tenets of Multiple Intelligence Theory, which contends that kinesthetic intelligence is one of the eight discrete intelligences that all humans possess and deserve to develop. From a practical standpoint, it will be crucial to communicate this on a regular basis to Pathfinder families, and to that end we will send out Physical Education newsletters once per month, with reports on activities for all of our students, preschool through eighth grade, in explicitly defined PE time, in outdoor education, in interscholastic athletics, and in other contexts.