Finding the Perfect Home Base
Ellie Weeks is a Movement Science major graduating this spring. She works with Dr. Pete Bodary as a teaching assistant for MOVESCI 241: Exercise, Nutrition and Weight Control. She also works in the Kinesiology Career Development Center and the Student Organization Accounts Service (SOAS) office; volunteers as an Ambassador during Kinesiology’s Campus Days; co-manages the Pre-Physical & Occupational Therapy Club; and volunteers in a special education preschool classroom.
Here she shares what she values most from the Kines program.
Q: You mentioned that you help run the Pre-Physical and Occupational Therapy Club. What do you do there?
A: I’m vice president of the club, so as part of that I schedule speakers to talk to our members. The club meets once a month and we recently expanded the club to include Occupational Therapy-- originally it was just PT (Physical Therapy). We try to cover all aspects of pre-professional development--applying to schools, how to take the GRE, bringing in different occupational therapists and people in related fields to talk to the group, and providing shadowing and volunteering opportunities.
Q: What drew you to the group?
A: A lot of the Kines curriculum is in line with the courses you need to take (to become a professional OT/PT.) That aspect is nice. But we saw a gap in the market, (the need for) something between a social and pre-professional fraternity.
Q: You also mentioned you were volunteering for a special education classroom. What was that like?
A: That started with me taking MOVESCI 425 (Physical Activity and Pediatric Disabilities) with Professor (Dale) Ulrich. For that we had to do a field placement -- anywhere from preschool to high school -- and I just love little kids. So I was placed in the Ann Arbor Preschool, which I really liked. There’s a high teacher-student ratio there. Once a week I help in a classroom of about 6-10 kids -- I’m mostly just an extra set of hands. I help kids follow directions, especially in gym, where they need more hand-over-hand prompting.
Q: So is it just PE, or is it the overall education of the kids?
A: It’s a little bit of everything. Depending on the day, it’s helping them jump on one foot, which you’d never think you’d have to teach, but you do. Another day, it’s coloring inside of the lines. Or just regulating emotions. What I really liked is that it exposes you to more than just the movement side of it. Of course, movement is the core and I had to report for class weekly, but as an OT who’d work in a wider realm than just physical movement, this really helped me see how OTs can help people lead more meaningful and productive lives in whatever way possible.
Q: What did you learn/value most from this experience?
A: There’s the obvious learning how to deal with kids. What I really enjoyed was applying classroom knowledge-- not just my Kines classes, but also Psych and other LSA classes. It really energized me. It’s a good reminder of why I’m doing what I’m doing. One thing we learned in Dr. Ulrich’s class was how to scale directions. It might be too much say, “Alright, now you gotta jump up onto this block then jump down on one foot”. We might have to first demonstrate it, then provide a visual depiction, and then a verbal prompt. They’d then be able to do it on their own. That’s something that we applied all the time in the preschool and that information was really helpful to have beforehand.
Q: Was it difficult to teach preschoolers?
A: It was not. They’re tiny, they move fast, and they all have a mind of their own. The most difficult part was navigating my role as a volunteer, and how much to step in or observe. Kines students are so much more prepared, so they end up giving us much more responsibility.
Q: So why are you doing this?
A: I came to Kines thinking I wanted to do Physical Therapy, and did it for about 2 years. Junior year, through shadowing opportunities and pre-PT club, that while PT is really cool -- it just wasn’t for me. I was able to shadow an OT, and thought to myself, “This really cool, I love this a lot”. It’s nice that through the Kines curriculum, I didn’t have to add a semester or add any courses. The transition was very smooth, which was nice.
In high school I thought the human body was really cool and enjoyed all the anatomy and exercise classes. But I was looking for a more applied way to study it than just getting a biology degree. So MOVESCI and the School of Kinesiology gave me that.
Q: What are your plans after you graduate?
I’m going to grad school for OT, specializing in Pediatrics.
Q: What were your favorite classes?
A: Definitely Dr. Ulrich’s class. Right now I’m in MOVESCI 421, which is Disorders of Voluntary Movement, and I find it really interesting. Other than that, the three cores (disciplines) -- Biomechanics, Motor Control, Exercise Physiology -- really help for graduate school.
Q: What do you value most about Kines?
A: Aside from the classroom education --which has been so helpful in getting into grad school-- finding connections, and shadowing, what has really helped me was the structure of the School—being a small school. I was really nervous about going to Michigan, since it’s so large, but Kines provided the perfect home base for me to gain confidence before branching out and working in different departments, gaining experience, and networking within the larger university. I am definitely an introverted person—my high school teachers would be shocked with where I am now! On a smaller scale, the professors and advisors are so accessible—I don’t even need to compare schedules, if I just show up, I’ll know people from that class!”
Interview written by Samantha "Sam" Tinor. Thanks, Sam!