Originally published March 1, 2021 by WFTV-TV.
By Mike Householder
A white board in the David Ellis Academy gymnasium is stuck on the wall.
And in time.
It details the planned activities for physical education classes on March 12, 2020 — the last day Ronda Brodsky taught physical education and health to students at the pre-K through eighth grade public charter school in Detroit.
But unlike many of her counterparts, she’s charged with getting children to move — a task made tougher when they are required to be in front of a screen at the same time.
“It was very difficult for me and I know a lot of them, because I’m not one that sits still well,” Brodsky said. “So, to tell me to sit in front of a computer now, I’m like, ‘OK, now what am I doing?’”
For assistance, Brodsky turned to CATCH Global Foundation, a charity that provides free teacher training to qualified schools in Michigan.
“Hopefully, we’ll get back to our new evolved normal sometime hopefully next fall or whenever COVID is in the rearview mirror,” said Abby Rose, a program manager with CATCH Global Foundation. “But for now, those P.E. teachers do need some good sort of best practices and strategies.”
Student physical activity, which is associated with a range of benefits, has dipped during the pandemic, and schools have struggled to help children maintain an active lifestyle.
Physical education teachers have an extra challenge adapting their classes for remote and/or hybrid learning environments due to the active nature of their curriculum.
That’s where CATCH Global Foundation comes in. The nonprofit brings resources to schools in underserved areas that might not otherwise be able to afford such a program, said Rose, who added that more than 10,000 schools use some form of CATCH.
Brodsky took advantage of live virtual teacher training, which will continue through the end of the current school year.
One of the go-to tips Brodsky picked up was a scavenger hunt-type game in which she counts down from three and instructs her students to find something round or a stuffed animal in their home and rush back to their computer.
“It gets them up and down, so you get more of the anaerobic, but it also gets them going,” said Brodsky, who also leads her students from afar in traditional exercises such as jumping jacks and push-ups.
For Deion Hollis, Brodsky’s physical education class is one of the highlights of his school day.
"I actually like it," the Ellis Academy fifth grade student said on a recent weekday just before he logged on to greet his teacher. "Because it's kind of hard to sit in a chair all day."