On Monday afternoon, passers-by would have seen several students on the turf field, but their silence would have indicated that they were not playing or practicing for a game. Instead the 20 GFS Upper School students they saw on that gorgeous fall day were moving quietly and slowly through the Chinese art of tai chi.
GFS began offering tai chi in fall 2011 as a GFS Physical Education elective. The class, which meets for an hour on Monday and Wednesday after school, is led by instructor Jeremy Harlow. Depending on weather and sports schedules, the class meets either outside on one of the turf fields or in the Old Gym.
Mr. Harlow leads students through stretches, drills, and walking forms before they split into groups to practice the Bagwa, an exercise designed to develop balance and sensitivity. While most Tai Chi classes are geared toward adults, the classes offered at GFS have been tailored to give students the basic knowledge of tai chi while taking a teenager’s attention span into account.
“The purpose of the class is to introduce girls to an alternative way of fitness incorporating balance and mindset through an established ritual of movement,” said Physical Education Department Chair Kim Marlor, who visited China several years ago as a chaperone on a GFS trip.
Ms. Marlor was impressed watching the girls and seeing them maintain their focus throughout the class “It was awesome and reminded me of the early mornings that I watched, and participated, in the tai chi exercises in the parks in China.”
Art Department Chair BJ McElderry spoke about both the physical and cultural benefits that the class provides the students: “GFS’ Confucius Classroom collaborated with Kim Marlor to launch the tai chi,” said Ms. McElderry. “The class provides a meaningful experience of Chinese culture--a continuing tradition—and understanding of a form of exercise that harnesses mental and physical energies.
Tai chi is offered again in the winter. Many of the girls who have taken the class this fall will continue and will be able to pass along their skills to the new students.