Board Games Inspire PE at Apex

Apr 26, 2017 | Stacey Ortman, director of public information

DUBUQUE, Iowa – Board games and physical education may seem like an unlikely duo, but one group of University of Dubuque students know how the two can combine to energize students.

Katie Boyer’s movement education class in the fall semester created 10-day thematic units based on board games found in the Charles C. Myers Library. Boyer, an assistant professor of education at UD, said the purpose of the assignment was to have students think outside-the-box and create lesson plans for a PE class inspired by a board game to get elementary school students moving in the classroom. UD students taught some of their lesson plans in the spring at Dubuque Lutheran School.

“The possibilities with thematic units are endless,” said Andrew Kim, a junior K-12 physical education teaching and K-12 health double major from Los Angeles, California.

Kim took components of “Scrabble” – word creation, letter recognition, etc. – and incorporated them into his unit. One of his lesson plans had students not only moving but also spelling. Kim placed papers with letters in the middle of Dubuque Lutheran School’s gym earlier this semester and asked students to lineup against the walls. Students then ran to the center of the gym, grabbed a letter, ran back, and repeated until they had enough letters to spell words.

“The students loved it. A lot of the kids were very competitive with each other,” Kim said. “It really does change the atmosphere of the classroom when students are having fun.”

On April 25, Kim shared his thematic unit at the fifth annual Apex: Celebration of Student Scholarship and Creativity in Heritage Center. The event honored undergraduate student research, service learning, and creativity. Apex has grown from 66 projects to over 180 projects this academic year.

Undergraduate students from all academic disciplines were invited to participate in Apex. More than 150 students, including Joseph and Linda Chlapaty Summer Fellowship participants, presented. To view a list of the projects, please visit

For Boyer, the 10-day thematic unit based on board games materialized after her students attended a professional development session on thematic and interdisciplinary units taught by Ann Seamer, wellness teacher at Irving Elementary School in Dubuque. Boyer said she took the idea and ran with it.

Stefanie Schroeder, a senior K-12 physical education teaching and K-12 health double major from Saint Charles, Illinois, used “Candyland,” her favorite game, to create lesson plans. Each day of her 10-day thematic unit was based on a character in the game. One of her lesson plans had elementary school students use scooters to introduce them to the concept of game pieces moving on the “Candyland” board.

“When you think of physical education, you don’t really think of this kind of theme. It shows you you can do more in physical education,” Schroeder said, adding. “A lot of people kind of underestimate physical education. Being able to explain how we create a thematic unit to our peers at Apex, they’re able to get a better understanding of what we do.”

Apex also included a reception for “The EDGE,” the annual Computer Graphic and Interactive Media student art show held in Charles and Elizabeth Bisignano Gallery.