As a young teacher, “Let’s take inventory” might have been my least favorite quote from my co-teachers. Fortunately, as I have aged, I have come to realize its importance. In physical education, pieces of equipment represent our “instructional supplies,” and to meet our program objectives sufficient equipment is essential. Given its importance, it would follow that we take great care in knowing what we have. But, do we always know what equipment we have? If it is in working order, and is it really meeting our needs? This blog will provide one of many inventory tips and ensure we know what we have and what we need, at all times.
Several years ago a new teacher asked me to help her with her equipment. When I arrived at the school the first thing I noticed is that she had over 100 hula hoops. I also noticed about the same number of Frisbee® discs spread around the equipment room. In our discussion, it became clear that she was extremely proud of a new Disc Golf Kit she had purchased. It came with Frisbees, plastic strips to be made into hoops, and cones. I asked her how she purchased the equipment and she said, “My principal said to get something I needed and I thought this would be good.” Several things went through my mind including “you already had what you need for Frisbee Golf” and “What did your inventory suggest you need?” I didn’t say the former, but I did ask the latter. Needless to say, she didn’t have an inventory. She didn’t know what she needed or even what equipment she had. Since this time, I have met and worked with several new teachers in hopes of avoiding this situation and maximizing equipment purchases.
When I was teaching, I was fortunate enough to work with two P.E. teachers who taught me the importance of a meticulous inventory. We did inventory twice a year and counted EVERYTHING. This allowed us to know exactly what we had, what we needed, and to ensure our equipment was safe. An up-to-date inventory allowed us to prioritize our needs and wants (this was tough for a 24-year-old) as to maximize our allocated funds. We could go to the principal and say, “We used to have 40 coated-foam balls, but 5 are worn after years of use. We need at least 36 to teach our lessons appropriately, maximize student activity, and ensure all students are learning. Are there funds available to purchase these supplies for the students?” If awarded a grant, or by chance (don’t laugh too hard hear) a building administrator came to us with some extra money, or the PTA wanted to support us with some funding, we always had a list that we could provide immediately before their generosity disappeared.
As I said earlier, equipment is essential for student learning in physical education. Because it is so important, we must know what we have and the only way I know to do this is with a PE inventory list. Here are some recommended steps for taking an inventory of equipment:
- Creating a PE Inventory Sheet
- Below is a snipet of the equipment needed to teach the curriculum we used as our foundation (Pangrazi & Beighle, 2016). This list is also in order of utility. That is, the first item is the piece of equipment we use the most, second, etc. The second part of the list is higher priced items that are not replaced as often, sometimes referred to as Capital-Outlay Items. Also note, there is a column to indicate the condition of the equipment, how many pieces we currently have, how many are ideal to teach a class of 36, and how many we need.
Condition: G = Good T = TrashF = Fair D = DonateP = Poor
From: Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children (18e). Pangrazi & Beighle. Pearson.
- Take Inventory
- Allocate ample time to count EVERYTHING. This can be tedious at times, but it is so worth the time. Count everything. Yes, we counted all of the scarves and every jump rope. We also made sure the beaded ropes were not broken. We blew up beach balls to make sure they held air. Inspecting the equipment while counting allows teachers to know what they have and avoids situations such as pulling out scooters for a lesson only to realize five scooters have broken wheels.
- Enter Inventory
- I have to admit, we didn’t always do this, but if we would have ever lost our inventory, it would have wasted a lot of time having to redo it. With technology today, entering inventory in Excel or another program as you go is advised. This will expedite the process if available. With the data entered, it is simple to calculate costs to replace, how to spend money, etc.
- Determine Needs
- The above three steps make it simple to quickly determine what is needed. If placed in an excel file with pricing information, teachers can quickly determine how much it would cost to get “enough” of a specific item. Or if told there is $200 to spend, a decision can quickly be made to purchase the highest priority item in that spending range.
This was a tedious process, but well worth it. In my experiences doing inventories for several schools, here are a few tips that help expedite this process and make the constant battle of having enough equipment a bit more palatable.
- Organize Equipment
- Use shelving bins, carts, and shelving will help keep your equipment organized and in great condition. Cardboard boxes work well, temporarily, but eventually fall apart. Plastic containers with lids or even milk crates can work too.
- Label Equipment
- This makes it easy to find equipment, especially if you use containers with lids. For instance, labeling ropes by length is much easier than having to separate them and then count them. A “friend” had to do that several times before learning his lesson.
- Determine District Policies
- Find out your districts purchasing policies early on. This could impact how you create your inventory list. It’s always best to find out these processes early to avoid double the work.
- Separate Recess and P.E. Equipment
- This allows you to make sure you know what equipment is used for P.E. and ensures you use appropriately allocated funds for P.E. equipment. Hopefully separate funds are allocated for P.E. and recess.
Since sufficient equipment is essential for a quality program, it is important that we care for this equipment and keep an up to date inventory so we know what we have. Know this information can impact planning, lessons content, and ultimately student experiences during physical education. THRIVE!