We hear so much about COVID limiting Physical Education options as students are quarantined, classrooms are virtual, and district policies change by the minute. The truth is, Physical Education started evolving virtually even before COVID began forcing education experts to rethink how learning is delivered. In the late 1990’s, Physical Education took a backseat as students began to take additional courses, advanced placement classes, and multiple electives to round out their college applications. Statistics now show that a reduction in physical activity has a direct correlation to increased childhood obesity, depression, and anxiety.
There are several ways to ensuring kids stay consistently involved in physical activity instead of the video games, tablets, or cell phones that call their names. The first is to make physical activity something they love. An early love for physical activity will carry through as students begin their college prep years on into adulthood. But how do you do that in a virtual world?
Incorporate games like Bingo, where kids can mark off activities as they go through the week or a Scavenger Hunt to find items in their home or yard. Another great way to foster creativity is to ask kids what exercise or sports they’ve always wanted to learn. You may find that a desire to learn a new sport or activity is shared by several other students. That can become a springboard to teach it virtually, or to incorporate a specialized activity taught by skilled outside educators.
Make it Accessible.
In the gymnasium, kids have a huge area to play and a cornucopia of resources to pick from. But at home, kids are limited by available space, space for the activity itself, or even basic resources like jump ropes and hula hoops. What’s a Physical Education teacher to do?
- Offer modifications. If they don’t have a jump rope, what do they have? If they need a balloon and don’t have one, what can you suggest they use that’s similar?
- Consider accommodations. Are there students with special needs, or physical limitations? Kids who aren’t as physically fit as other students? Kids have fun when they feel included. How can you include them in your activity so that every kid belongs?
- Use what you’ve got. What does every kid have? A body! No matter what online connection type a kid is using, or what type of video chat they’re using, every kid has a body. If you can get that body going through videos, flash cards, emailed activities or other resources you can work around any other limitations.
Flexibility—switch it up.
Research shows that learning something new helps build new brain cells and makes the connection between existing cells stronger. Learning new activities strengthens the brain, improves concentration, problem solving, and memory. Skillastics ® offers a unique digital virtual learning program that offers specialty activities like Folklorico, Yoga, Martial Arts, or Sport Stacking. When kids master one type of program, they can try something new. Because each program is a self-run program led by experts in their field, the individual physical education instructor doesn’t have to be the expert in that activity!
Change the Scenery.
Move it outdoors! The CDC’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Kids recommends that kids from ages 6 to 17 have at least an hour of physical activity per day. When kids are in a virtual setting that hour can be difficult to find. In fact, only 24% of kids in this age group are actually achieving that hour of activity. One solution is to move physical activity outdoors and consider Geocaching. Geocaching can be socially distanced, and with parents, family members, or older siblings. Participants use a GPS or Global Positioning System on their phone app to hide and seek containers that are left at outdoor locations with the specified coordinates. It’s free, there’s no age limit, and you can find multiple apps, podcasts, and program.
Don’t Forget Connection.
When kids are virtually connected to school, they can miss out on the human connection with their peers and instructors. Passionate teachers who stay connected with their students create an environment of love through the relationships they build. When students know you still care even through the screen, it can fill the void of human interaction from in-person classes. In turn, a simple physical education class can become their favorite hour of the day.
About the Author
Sandy Slade is the CEO & Founder of Skillastics®, the all-in-one solution for After School and PE instructors that make physical activity simple.
Skillastics® is enjoyed by over 10 million students in more than 25,000 educational settings nationwide.