Originally published May 15, 2021 in The Desert Sun.

By Mary Perry

There has been no simple and clear-cut way to teach any subject this year. However, it would seem that teaching physical education remotely might be one of the more challenging areas of all. There is no playing ball, there is no racing around the field, and there is no learning a new sport.

How exactly did teachers keep physical fitness in the lives of their students?

The elementary schools of Desert Sands Unified School District created what they called the Elementary PE Task Force and the 18 teachers shared their ideas and their lesson plans. Sometimes they even shared their actual classes as Ryan Flores, PE teacher at Amelia Earhart, created Fitness Friday. His wacky costumes and crazy antics became so popular that many other schools tuned in. Check out Coach Flores’s YouTube channel.

The motive behind Fitness Friday and all of the innovative ways to teach physical education using a computer screen was to keep kids active. Bill Baker, PE teacher at Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School, invites his students to “Share and Tell.” Children are invited to stay active after school and to take their Chromebook outside and set it up to film as they demonstrate such skills as dribbling a soccer ball. The only rule for the segment is that all comments placed in “chat” must be positive.

Another Coach Baker tool in the new box of distance learning PE is called “Simultaneous Sip.” In order to reinforce the importance of hydration, all students begin the class taking a big sip of water at the same time. Baker uses this class introduction to remind students to drink eight glasses of water a day in addition to remaining active.

Over at Dr. Reynaldo Carreon Jr. Academy, PE teacher Jory Kirchhevel, like his peers, does more than just teach physical education. The DSUSD team of coaches leads by example and Kirchhevel was recently featured on the Fuel Up To Play 60 e-classroom website doing 100 “touchdown jacks” to celebrate the 100th day of school.

Coach K and his students are deeply involved in the healthy practices of the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. His students were even invited to celebrate their commitment to fitness by joining in the celebration of the Los Angeles Chargers new stadium opening. He and the team at the school take great pride in the use of PE in social-emotional learning as students expressed their feelings by physical movement. Similar to other DSUSD school programs, the Carreon Comets submit videos of themselves making smoothies with their families, doing exercises or healthy food preparation.

The teachers are quick to share that their efforts are all about team – isn’t that the way it should be in PE?

Coach Flores noted that, “Coach Paula Reynolds (Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School) brought scavenger hunts to life in our homes. Coach Nicholas Sauceda (Carrillo Ranch Elementary School) incorporated Guitar Hero into PE making it physically active. Coach Tim Fitzpatrick (James Monroe Elementary School) showed us that a roll of toilet paper and a crumpled up piece of paper could be the most valuable piece of PE equipment with endless activities.”

And it isn’t just the elementary school PE classes that have been innovative. Our middle and high schools, and even our pre-schools are dancing and running and jumping and, at La Quinta Middle School, Coach Robert Brock has built a nine-hole golf course on the school’s field.

The DSUSD physical education teachers use that favorite football term of “punting” and change their “game” to meet the needs of the students in distance learning and at the school sites in socially distance best practices.

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    A change in the game
    School district teachers come together to create an effective PE program for elementary students during the pandemic.
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