PE During the Pandemic: How Virtual Classes Provide Opportunities for Schools and Students

Written by
Suzette Harris, Media Advocacy Director, Voices for Healthy Kids
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My kids began their back–to–school ritual this week and it’s all virtual, at least for the first part of the school year. They were at the same school last year, but because one is starting high school and the other is in middle school they should be at different schools four miles apart. Instead, they are just four feet apart, choosing to use a shared workspace. This is just another example of how 2020 rolled right through all our plans.

We’ve made do with tables and bought a desk, reset expectations for online learning, managed through daily interruptions and the piles of dishes like everyone else. We’re learning as we go.

A prime example - last week we picked up our distance learning packets and supplies, a task that took two hours through a curbside pickup line in 100° heat. I’m not complaining – it’s just a heavy dose of reality for life as we know it. The teachers and principal were amazing and happy to see each student through the car windows, waving enthusiastically and efficiently providing everything we needed. In fact, the physical education (PE) teachers were our first stop, handing out hula hoops and jump ropes to each car in line.

I’ve read to not set 2019 expectations for this school year because this is 2020 and everything we know as “normal” is off the table. This could not be truer than for a class like PE that in all the years past had depended on physical student interaction and use of equipment. There are, of course, lots of lessons students can learn from their PE teachers about the importance of physical activity as they move their bodies and hold virtual workouts from their backyards and family rooms.

Still, here are a few tips for students, teacher and parents as we navigate this school year together.  

  • Stretch—Morning stretches and getting your blood flowing in lieu of the usual high energy that comes with entering the school building each morning will help get your days started right. Don’t forget to also stretch your creativity for ways to use household items to build strength (think canned goods for weights) and get activity in each day.
  • Flexibility—Yes, physical flexibility is a great goal for students! Also, for virtual learners, each student is literally in a different place – some have space to run, jump and throw and others do not. With this in mind, be patient and flexible with expectations.
  • Growth—No matter your age, this year will challenge you and is an opportunity for growing and learning new things. If you haven’t used a jump rope in a few years, there’s no better time to try it out even in small spaces.

Given the wild card that is the 2020 school year, we want to hear about how you – as a teacher, parent or student – are fitting PE into your day. Please share with us ways your school is engaging in virtual PE or safe socially distanced PE if your school is in person - tag us on Twitter using @Voices4HK and use hashtag #PEin2020 to join the conversation! 

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