Originally published Oct. 25, 2020 by The Coronado Times.
By Bella Villarin
With distance learning well underway at Coronado High School, some may be wondering how students are staying active despite excessive amounts of screen time. The answer: physical education (PE). Although some are participating in sports and exercising on their own, not everyone maintains their fitness without the help of teachers and school guidance.
Across all grade levels, PE classes are in session. How? CHS teachers and students give us the inside scoop.
Mr. Jeffrey Beckley is the ninth grade Fitness for Life instructor. A typical day for him varies depending on the learning objective. Mondays are characterized by shorter class periods, where his students focus on content such as goal setting and information about fitness and the human body. On other days of the week, students can be seen participating in Tabata or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) style workouts through Zoom. These in-class exercises range from 20 to 30 minutes, and can include movements targeted at improving flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and muscular endurance. Students are also provided with asynchronous exercise time, where they participate in a physical activity of their choice and keep a log of all their activities.
“As their PE teacher I believe it is important for me to encourage and support students to set fitness goals and work to achieve those goals. Goal-setting is one of the most important tools to teach students as they work to stay active and healthy in the distance learning environment,” Mr. Beckley explained.
He desire is to share his love of fitness and exercise with his students while encouraging them to lead active lifestyles and pursue their dreams. Mr. Beckley works hard to keep kids motivated, but even he has troubles at times.
“The biggest challenge I have faced teaching PE through the distance learning format is that absence of being on campus with my students. My students have been incredible and are a resilient group. They have embraced our routines and are doing their best each day, but PE is best experienced on campus with classmates,” Mr. Beckley explained. “As the semester moves forward, I will continue to find ways to bridge the gap between traditional PE and distance learning PE.”
Mr. Beckley wants his students to apply fitness and life principles learned in class to real life situations. If he wanted students to learn one lesson from his class, it would be to realize the positive impacts that exercise has in life.
CHS athletic director Ms. Robin Nixon instructs one period of Fitness for Life, two periods of weight training, and Hybrid Athletic PE. A graduate of CHS, she was also an athlete in her teen years and personally understands the strains student-athletes are experiencing during these times.
Similar to Fitness for Life, CHS’s weight training class meets virtually three times a week with Mondays being the shortest. At the start of each week, students review a plan for the upcoming days and are given assignments to complete throughout the week. On the other two days, a YouTube workout is presented where students follow along with the exercises. Hybrid PE is slightly different from other classes since in pre-pandemic times students would only meet once every three weeks in person while independently completing assignments on a weekly basis. Now, the only difference is that participants meet on Zoom for the in person gathering.
“I have been quite impressed with our students in that most of them seem to be working out on their own. We do ask that students fill out a workout log and then we do a variety of workouts together, but overall I am quite happy with our students’ fitness levels. Accountability has been better than I thought,” Ms. Nixon shared.
Her only issues with distance learning are connectivity issues and technological problems, which are often not the fault of students. PE requires active participation and movements from students, and it is difficult for teachers to assign participation grades when cameras are not turned on.
Ms. Debra Buchanan teaches freshman dance/health and yoga. She also provides students with both synchronous and asynchronous time. She presents a Zoom activity for about 30 minutes each class period, and the rest of the time is for students to complete PowerSchool assignments. One of the aspects Ms. Buchanan emphasizes is mental health. Participants conduct mindfulness practices that target stress reduction in hopes that it helps students mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Ms. Buchanan shared that the two biggest challenges during distance learning were the absence of her students in the studio and the hardships instructing through Zoom. Dancing and yoga require specific movements, which can be hard to display on camera. However, Ms. Buchanan is proud of her students and looks forward to seeing them all in person.
Ms. Buchanan declared, “These students are amazingly resilient and wonderful. They give me so much energy and truly make teaching a joy. They have proven that, even while facing obstacles, they can succeed. I hope to see a studio filled with eager learners and active bodies! In the interim we will all continue our quest for lifelong health and fitness, encouraging each other, and looking forward to being back on campus.”
When asked about plans for the future, Ms. Buchanan claimed that she would relish the day when she does not have to constantly ask, “Can you please unmute yourself?”
Kaelyn Krueger, a current freshman at CHS, has first-hand experience attending PE through distance learning. She shared that technological issues are her main concern because they interfere with learning and activity while causing stress and anxiety.
“If it’s glitchy or you can’t hear people, it makes it pretty difficult to actively participate in class. This has happened to me, and it’s not fun. You’re trying to figure out how to fix it and other people in class are trying to help, so it gets messy,” she described.
Kaelyn hopes to be back safely in school in-person soon. She believes that learning is exponentially better in real life, but will continue to fight through these crazy times and persevere.
Overall, students are doing their best to stay physically healthy at home with the help and guidance of PE teachers via Zoom classes. Although there are unavoidable obstacles in the way, many have fought through them and maintained a level of physical fitness during the pandemic.