New Ottawa program features innovative play equipment to put a thrilling new twist on gym class
It’s all about kids letting loose, exploring and having endless fun, while challenging themselves and even learning a thing or two.
Funatorium Explorium in Schools is a brand new program launched earlier this year by Funatorium Explorium, an Ottawa-based family entertainment company, to wide acclaim.
Funatorium Explorium in Schools provides crazy, innovative entertainment equipment designed to get kids (and adults) up and moving. They set up in school gymnasiums on the Sunday before and become the gym class for the entire week.
The program’s benefits extend beyond the physical activity component, says Leslie Foster, Funatorium Explorium’s founder and “Chief Fun Creator.”
“Energy in the school during the week that Funatorium Explorium is there is electric,” she says.
For those lucky classes where the teacher gets in on the action, there is bonding on a different level than the typical day-to-day classroom interaction.
“Teachers and principals are encouraged to participate and the children go bananas to see them stuck to the Spider Climbing wall or upside down in the GyroGym,” says Foster.
And kids who don’t necessarily excel at physical education get to try something new and perhaps gain a little self-confidence in the process.
“The goal is to make children love gym class, one super-fun activity at a time,” she says.
“They are typically having so much fun, they don’t even realize they are doing physical education.”
Keeping the province’s physical education curriculum in mind, a progression for each piece of equipment was developed with the goal of meeting the child where they are at in their development, and advance them on their personal learning continuum.
Each piece of equipment has a skills progression, says Foster. Key goals include gross motor skill development, communication skills enhancement and problem-solving.
Take the traverse climbing wall. Some children will have difficulty simply navigating the wall from one end to the other. Other children will need an added challenge, so they will only touch handholds of a specific colour, increasing the level of difficulty.
Once that is mastered, they can try it blindfolded or participate in a timed relay. The options are endless, but the objective is to make each child feel like they’ve succeeded, says Foster.
This approach also accommodates special needs children. “There is always at least one piece of equipment that a child with special needs will gravitate toward,” says Foster.
“It is gratifying to see these children participate in these activities with big smiles on their face. There is no right or wrong – everyone succeeds.”
Popular features include the bonus science buckets, with a number of experiments around magnetism (supporting the magnetic climbing wall) and gyroscopes (complementing the GyroGyms).
There are detailed experiments included for all ages. Teachers can sign out the buckets and attempt some pretty cool experiments with the class.
There’s no searching for the required materials; everything is provided, including step-by-step instructions.
And Foster recognizes that a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work because no two schools are alike.
“We know that every school is different, that’s why the program is designed to be flexible in the number of stations, the mix of stations and the price,” she says. “We can also work on specific learning objectives.”
A school can create an entire week specifically around one activity such as Sport Stacking, or bring in a number of bigger elements. The children are divided into smaller groups and move from station to station, with each child having the opportunity to try everything at least once during their two physical education classes that week.
Foster says the program offers great educational and entertainment value for schools. “To bring in a one-hour performance such as a play or a magician costs $1,200 on average, and may be geared to only half the school due to age-specific content,” she says.
Funatorium Explorium can work with all ages, from Junior Kindergarten to grade 12 and beyond, says Foster, and programs start at $3,600 for the week. And there are no school buses to coordinate.
Funatorium Explorium activities are also suitable for school fundraisers, family fun days and year-end celebrations, she says.
Funatorium Explorium has started booking for the 2013-2014 school year. Service is available in English and French.
For more information, visit
Funatorium Explorium’s website
contact Leslie Foster at