Originally published April 7, 2020 in the Penobscot Bay Pilot.

By George Harvey

Gone (temporarily) are the days of gymnasiums filled with the sounds of children jumping rope and playing dodgeball.

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing school campuses, all classes have shifted to remote instruction, including physical education classes.

Though physical education has, technically, shifted to remote instruction, Camden Hills Regional High School physical education teacher Chris Audet pointed out in an interview he wants his students unplugging from technology for his class. (Ironically, he noted his screen time has probably increased by 500 percent as he edits his videos, something that did not come naturally to him.)

On his own time, outside school hours, Audet films and edits videos to share with his students, outlining how they should care for themselves physically, mentally or emotionally during the pandemic.

A recent assignment was to get outdoors and do 45 minutes of exercise that would increase one’s heart rate, with students rating how they felt mentally before and after performing the exercise.

Audet’s students carry out their assignments during the day and will either submit a video or written response discussing the activity and how it made them feel.

Some of his 60 students have reported feelings of stress and anxiety during the pandemic as they primarily remain stuck at home. Getting outdoors for a walk, or even participating in brief indoor physical activities such as stretching, can reduce levels of stress and anxiety, Audet said, which has been true for many of his students.

In fact, several of his students have said they felt more focused and engaged during their other classes after doing his physical activity assignment.

Some parents, he said, have reported they are envious of their children’s assignments from Audet. While sifting through video or written assignments submitted by his students, Audet has found a few submissions from the parents of his students.

Audet encourages his students, and others working from home, to occasionally stand up and stretch every so often as they work from home.

When venturing outdoors for exercise, Audet recommends his students, and the general public, comply with CDC and State of Maine guidelines and follow the six feet of social distancing rule. If hiking or walking on a trail, seek wide rather than narrow paths, he suggested.

He advises students and the general public alike to perform exercise to increase heart rate and to perform activities on a rotational basis to eliminate burnout or boredom.

Each day, Audet reaches out to his students to see how they are doing from a physical, mental and emotional state. He advises his students to consume news in a healthy, limited manner and from trusted sources (such as the CDC website rather than social media posts). His students are encouraged to adjust their caloric intake since they are, generally, indoors more than usual these days. He recommends students take this time of isolation to learn something new and find new ways to connect with friends (such as through phone calls) and to completely unplug from technology once a week.

Ultimately, Audet recommends everyone to keep perspective and strive to remain healthy during the pandemic.

On the other side of the Five Town area, Hope Elementary School physical education teacher Jeff Payson is also uploading videos with suggestions of physical activities for Hope students to perform around their house, along with some humor which he said in an interview is a traditionally key aspect of his classes.

The goal for him is to not only provide means to keep students active, but also to bring a smile to viewers and show students there are plenty of ways to stay active outside of the gymnasium.

In one of his recent videos, Payson suggested children be active by picking up sticks, doing cartwheels or playing hop scotch.

Many students at Hope Elementary were provided, ahead of the pandemic, with jump ropes courtesy of the American Heart Association and tennis balls provided by the Midcoast Recreation Center.

The response to his videos has been positive, Payson said, noting he has received an abundance of compliments on Facebook and the videos have been shared several times.

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    Teachers do whatever's necessary to keep students moving with physical education activities they can complete at home.
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