Lab School, athletes team up for gym

The U’s Laboratory School and athletes raised money for new gym equipment.

Tiff Clements

Between races through an obstacle course of dummies, track hurdles and rubber exercise balls, art junior Erich Welton found time to play with some of the evening’s special guests Friday night at Bierman Athletic Field: children from the University’s Lab School.

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For more information about the Shirley G. Moore Lab School, go to their website

Welton, a varsity swimmer, and about 10 other University student-athletes teamed up with Goldy Gopher, parents and teachers from the Shirley G. Moore Laboratory School to run, jump, dance and practice touchdown celebrations. About 20 families attended the Family Gym Jam, a fundraiser to buy new gymnasium equipment for the school.

“It’s a chance to act like a kid again and it’s for a good cause,” Welton said.

The laboratory school, a part of the University’s Institute of Child Development, is a training facility for University students working on a licensure in early childhood development, a place for research projects and a fully functioning preschool program for children ages 2 to 5.

According to Barbara Murphy, associate director of the school, the gymnasium hasn’t been updated since the early 1970s.

“We’ve done amazing things with the equipment that is 30-some years old,” she said. “But we feel that we could do a much better job of modeling for the student teachers as well as preparing the kids.”

She said the gym is an integral part of the school’s curricula, both for the mental and motor skill development of the children and University students training to work in early childhood education.

“We want our students to leave here with a very firm understanding of development,” Murphy said.

She said students and staff at the school have done great things with the existing facility, a converted classroom filled with mats, slides, pillows and a slew of other aging accessories, but an update would allow them to do more.

“As a model program, we feel that we need to do a better job of helping these teachers get how to facilitate the kinds of activities that will build children’s skill level as well as enhance their confidence,” Murphy said.

Sarah Anderson, a student in the master’s program for early childhood education, said the lab school’s gym has been a useful tool in developing her teaching skills.

“It makes us more aware of what skills (the children) are working on,” she said.

Jenna Filand, another student in the master’s program, said she sees the school’s gym as helpful for learning how to create stimulating learning areas.

“I think we’re lucky to have a specific space for that,” she said. “An update and new things would really refresh things.”

The chairwoman of the school’s parental advisory committee, Linda Stuart, said Friday’s event was a chance for lab school students to play together outside the classroom.

“The fundraising is secondary to getting families and kids out in a social setting,” she said.

Amy Susman-Stillman, another of the event’s organizers, said the event raised more than $2,000 toward the committee’s $5,000 goal.

She said she saw the night as an opportunity for the children to meet people they admire.

“Kids who think athletes are incredible get a good portrayal of what athletes can be,” she said.

Varsity golfer Sydney Liles said she can remember being star struck when she saw athletes who played for the University of New Mexico.

“I know when I was their age, I couldn’t believe it when I saw a Lobo,” she said.

The sophomore from New Mexico said she’s worked with children in the past as a golf instructor and was happy to give up her time to participate in the event.

“The kids are just a blast,” she said.

The event drew lab school alumni and their parents.

Trish Burger brought her 5-year-old daughter to the event. She said she was just as excited as her daughter, now in kindergarten, about the open space, variety of activities and 6-foot tall gopher.

“This is like a parent’s dream come true,” Burger said.

She said she was glad to support the lab school.

“If they do it again, we’ll come,” Burger said.