By Colleen Lentile
Quidditch instructor? Wipeout coach? Olympic judge? The answer is, “Yes, she is! Amy Lowell, D.G. Cooley Elementary School’s Physical Education Instructor, fulfills all of these titles, plus many more—all in her gymnasium. From walking her dog through town to hosting challenging physical events, she inspires her students to get fit in and out of her P.E. class, even all of the way from California, where she participated in ABC’s hit show Wipeout.
Lowell became the P.E. Instructor at D.G. Cooley in 2010. And as a “P.E. kid” with the dream of working for Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign fighting against child obesity, Lowell fit the job description. She wasted no time in getting students involved and enthusiastic about exercising. In only three years, Lowell has created multiple events that break the mold.
“If you find something that’s important to the students, then it’s more exciting for them,” said Lowell, referring to the many specialized events that she has created for her students.
Her events not only become interesting to the students who already participate in athletics, but to those who don’t.
Playing Quidditch is one such activity. It is based largely on the well-known sport Harry Potter plays in JK Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series, but is changed to meet the needs of our non-wizarding world. For example, Lowell assigned the job of the snitch to two boys, one of whom was her son Cooper. They dressed in all yellow and were released into the game at an instance—similar to the winged, flying snitch that Harry tries to catch. The brooms that were used were donated, like most of the other props, which are not covered by the school’s budget.
The team mentality of Quidditch remains in the shape of the different classes. They get to decide on team names as a class, then compete as a team against other classes. The team names include Jenny and the Jets and Large’s Fast and Furious. The students often arrive to class dressed in their Harry Potter gear as well. This allows them to exercise while having fun pretending to fly like Harry.
Another activity that got a great reaction from the students is the mock Olympics that Lowell put on for the students after the summer 2012 Olympics in London, England. Then there was the Swiss game Tchoukball, which involves teams quickly throwing a ball at a frame on the opposing team’s side.
“I wanted to bring in a game that they had never heard of,” said Lowell.
But, recently, it has been the game that most are familiar with that has been the most popular in Lowell’s gymnasium.
After an evening of watching television with her children, Lowell decided to create a “Wipeout” event for her students based on ABC’s show. With help from parent volunteers, Lowell accomplished her goal. The events were kept a complete secret from the students, which only created more suspense and stirred up more excitement. Several activities were made to form a Wipeout obstacle course for the students, which included an army crawl, a rock wall (donated by Incredible Inflatables in Winchester), a wall with boxing gloves continuously popping out, and many more Wipeout-like tasks.
The prizes for winning were objects sent to Lowell from her connections at ABC, like Wipeout banners. Success also qualifies as each student’s physical fitness testing for the fall and spring. Teachers also participated in the obstacle course after the students finished.
With such great success, Lowell made the decision to continue doing the Wipeout event every year.
“I always try to get the kids to do something out of their comfort zone,” said Lowell, commenting on the many unusual tasks she encourages the students to do while in her P.E. class.
When the tables were turned, Lowell never expected them to ask her to do something out of her comfort zone. In the fall of 2012, Lowell’s students began urging her to be on the real Wipeout. Eventually Lowell caved, and made a video application for the show with the help of her students.
Before she knew it, it was January and she was on her way to California to compete in Wipeout.
“I never thought I would get on the show. But I would definitely do it again,” said Lowell.
Though she had fun on the show, she also mentioned that it was the hardest thing she had ever done. As an inspiration to her students, Lowell continues to be active to inspire her students to be fit.
Lowell exclaimed, Forty-five minutes is not enough,” referring to the time that the students are in P.E. class. She runs or walks her dog throughout Berryville, so that her students will see her and be inspired to exercise as well.
Lowell will return as D.G. Cooley’s Physical Education Instructor in the fall and will remain persistent in her ideals and construction of new, enjoyable activities for her students.
You can also see Lowell in action on Wipeout July 25 on ABC.
Colleen Lentile is The Observer’s 2013 summer intern.