From Trombone Playing to Officer Training: P.E. Credit Craziness
Two writers investigate the most interesting ways to get a P.E. credit.
Traditionally, Dartmouth students must complete three physical education or wellness credits before their senior spring in order to graduate. However, due to COVID-19 interruptions, the P.E. credit was lifted for the Class of 2023 and lessened for ’24s and ’25s. This means that the Class of 2026 is the first class that will again need three credits to graduate. Since all incoming students will need at least three terms of P.E. or wellness activities moving forward, we decided to compile some of the most interesting — and sometimes unconventional — activities that count for credit.
Street Soul is a beginner-friendly student-led dance group on campus. When they aren’t grooving to Doja Cat or Nicki Minaj songs, they can be found practicing in Sarner Underground on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. With a core group of around 20 students, Street Soul invites students with a wide range of dance experience to come to their open practices and learn pieces choreographed by students in the group.
According to Street Soul member and soon-to-be treasurer Jadyn Malone ’25, the environment is welcoming and the choreographers work closely with dancers.
“It’s not a high-stakes environment at all…everybody is very supportive and wants everybody to feel comfortable, get better at dance, but also have fun.”
The group typically performs twice a term, often alongside another student-led dance group. At their last show, 15 students performed in six different dance pieces, each about a minute long. Street Soul is open to everyone, and welcomes both new and experienced dancers to join each term.
In addition to being the owner of several properties occupied by students living off campus, Jolin Salazar Kish ’88 also teaches a Zumba class that students can take for P.E. credit. In order to receive credit for participating in Kish’s Zumba class, students must attend 12 classes in a term.
Kish said that she runs two different classes, with about 35 students per class. One class is held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 to 5 p.m., and the other is held on Tuesday and Thursday from 4:45 to 5:45 p.m.
Kish added that her decision to give students the opportunity to earn P.E. credit comes from her active involvement in the fitness program, and she added that all experience levels are welcome.
“I took my first Zumba class four years ago and I really loved it. I began teaching it at many places around the Upper Valley soon after,” she said. “Zumba is for people who like to dance and have fun. The class participants have been very encouraging and supportive of each other. It is meant to be a no judgment zone. That way, folks from beginner to professional and everyone in between can let the music move them, dance off some stress and stay healthy.”
The Reserve Officer Training Corps at Dartmouth consists of around 12 students who train in various activities including physical fitness and classroom instruction. The majority of students in Dartmouth’s ROTC are contracted cadets, which means that in return for scholarships toward their education they will serve in the Army after college. The rest are uncontracted, which indicates that they are trying out ROTC, or participating in hopes of gaining a contract.
Dartmouth’s ROTC program is a satellite program of University of New Hampshire ROTC, and the group sometimes embarks on arduous weekend-long training camps that include extensive amounts of trekking outdoors.
Dylan Griffith ’25, the only sophomore in ROTC, came to Dartmouth knowing that he would participate in the program. He remarked that sometimes the transition from training to regular classes can be jarring.
A few weeks ago, Griffith said that he found himself lying down outside in the hail in 20-degree weather for four hours.
“[I was] pulling security, which means you’re lying down and aiming your gun out basically, and just freezing,” Griffith said. “Then we just come back [to campus], and it’s like, ‘ah, go to a lecture,’… no one knows what we just went through.”
Although it’s not for the faint of heart, ROTC is certainly one of the more involved ways to earn a P.E. credit.
Another high-commitment activity that earns a select few students P.E. credit is Ski Patrol, colloquially referred to as “skipa.”
Every year, Ski Patrol recruits 15 to 20 first-year students to join their ranks, train and study to earn the distinctive red Ski Patroller vest. Student ski patrollers work with community patrollers on shifts that last about five hours each, and each patroller completes two shifts per week.
Ski Patroller Lauren Kayari ’25 detailed a typical shift.
“It might include something like tying knots or maybe a toboggan run,” she said. “We also always have to be ready to respond if we get a report of somebody who’s injured or somebody who isn’t able to get down the hill safely.”
Kayari also commented on the dual nature of a Ski Patrol shift.
“At times it’s incredibly chill and at times it is highly stressful,” Kayari said. “For example, last Sunday I responded to my first really big incident, and that was very stressful.”
But the shifts aren’t only work, Kayari added.
“Of course, we can take fun runs, which are a great time, especially in the last few days on the snow which has been amazing,” Kayari said.
Being a First-Year Trips Leader
If you enjoyed participating in First-Year Trips at the beginning of your Dartmouth experience, becoming a trips leader might be the P.E. opportunity for you. Anna St Jean ’25 led a moderately strenuous hiking trip this past September, and she has nothing but good things to say about her experience as a trip leader.
“I really liked my First-Year Trip,” St Jean said. “My trip leaders were super enthusiastic about the program and they made me feel welcome. I wanted to do the same for other students.”
Additionally, after students apply to lead First-Year Trips, the members of the First-Year Trips Directorate provide training so that they’re prepared to lead, even if they have no prior experience in the outdoors.
“My [co-leader] had only hiked once or twice before, and he was definitely adequately prepared. I also know a lot of people who had never gone on a trip with the DOC that were great trip leaders and had fun,” St Jean added.
Trips provides an opportunity to try something new, or share an outdoor activity that trip leaders love with students looking to get to know Dartmouth up close and personal.
Last but not least, the Dartmouth College Marching Band is an activity that allows students to play music and still earn a P.E. credit. Hannah Krueger ’26 joined DCMB in her freshman fall, and is one of many who has earned credit for her involvement.
“I honestly didn’t even know that there was P.E. credit for marching band,” Krueger said. “I did [band] in high school and I thought, ‘this could be fun.’ I went to a practice and thought that the band members were really cool.”
Even better, you can join DCMB with no experience playing an instrument.
“My friend, [Kevin Farrell ’25], had never been in marching band before, and he was the president of the marching band last term,” Krueger said.
If physical education isn’t usually your thing, or you’re looking for something new to change up your termly activities, there are plenty of unique opportunities to fulfill the graduation requirement. From the Skiway to Sarner underground, students find creative ways — and locations — to break a sweat and get involved in activities beyond a typical sports practice.