Originally published July 9, 2020 in The Press-Enterprise.

By Carl Love

Think about physical education and often the first thing that comes to mind for many is running laps.

Laps, laps and more laps.

Then there is the pandemic version done by 15 elementary school PE specialists in the Temecula Valley Unified School District.

At a time when educators across the land got creative to keep students engaged, the Temecula crowd came up with activities to get everybody pumped.

For example, there was the “ultimate game of catch” — in which teachers, animals and babies were seen tossing balls, juggling them, chasing them and then handing them off to the next participant, all done virtually and with creative editing.

Instructors were confident enough to include an “outtakes” section that shows them messing things up. Kids always appreciate when their leaders are willing to concede they’re not perfect either.

As for any concerns about injuries from creating this elaborate thing, there was this disclaimer: “No animals, babies or adults were harmed in the making of this video.”

Specialist Felicia Lindl said the students got creative, too, using trash cans, pots and pans, 2-liter bottles and other things in their homes to make up for the PE equipment they lacked. Kids had a say in their curriculum, too, providing electronic feedback that helped teachers plot future lessons.

Of course, big sporting events such as a virtual field day need buildup and a torch run did that. PE specialists were filmed handing whatever they could find to each other. Again, pets and kids could be seen with some instructors, reminding kids that educators are people with actual families.

For the field day, there was a virtual warm up with school mascots, people, and even a stuffed animal doing what appeared to be pushups, given that it’s hard to know what exactly such a creature can do. The message was that, if a stuffed animal can get active, so can any human. So get off that screen and get going, kids.

The field day started with Bitmojis of instructors doing activities that were conventional, such as spiking a football, catching a baseball or dribbling a basketball. Then there was the unconventional image of flying in a paper airplane. The actual video shows the specialist just throwing the airplane, in case you were worried about educator Jacob Perez’s safety. Just throwing a paper airplane is safe, except in a classroom, of course.

There was a different video of kids kicking a shoe and one more of using a broom to sweep a sock from station to station. Creative for sure, not just some PE person yelling about more laps.

Even the dialogue is atypical. In his sweeping challenge, teacher Byron Wright can be heard in his video chastising his broom for being late to class because it “over-swept” and later, getting on the cleaning tool for “sweeping in class.” Nothing boring about his curriculum. Corny is another matter.

He says teachers tried to make some of the videos humorous and goofy and mission accomplished with him.

While that was fun, the downsides for Wright in virtual learning were kids spending more time on their screens to get the PE done, and less time personally interacting with each other and their instructors.

It’s a common refrain heard across school districts.

While schools contemplate what to do when students in southwest Riverside County mostly return in August for a new year, the questions are will it be a return to normal school, virtual learning only or a combination of the two?

Temecula PE specialist Chris Rivard says his colleagues will be ready.

“Remote learning is not an ideal situation, but it’s not impossible.”

They proved that with their PE.

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    Temecula schools learn to teach PE during coronavirus times
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    Temecula schools learn to teach PE during coronavirus times
    Using video, physical education specialists led students through exercises involving trash cans, pots and pans and 2-liter bottles.
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