Originally published June 12, 2021 by Tap Into Denville.
By Anthony Lusardi
In the wake of the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, at the Morris County School of Technology (Vo-Tech), much effort has been put into keeping physical education alive and running.
“As a teacher whose main objective is to get students to move and find activities that they enjoy and can sustain for a lifetime to come, the thought of teaching PE behind a computer screen was a thought that I never once had to entertain,” said Kristen Maday, who teaches physical education and health at Vo-Tech.
“Back in March 2020, it was a lot of phone calls back and forth with my PE department, figuring out just how to have our students still engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity while at home with limited space equipment and resources. From leaving school that Friday to the following Monday, we had a quality plan ready to roll out,” Maday stated.
“Back in April and May of 2020, I was teaching live PE fitness classes via zoom as an option for students to earn PE credit at home and to help hold students accountable for showing up and getting the work done,” said Maday.
“I became very familiar with Google classroom and created a professional school Instagram page where every morning I would post a bodyweight, equipment-free workout and establish a CHOICE PE board that we are still using today. Our CHOICE assignment challenged students to use technology in documenting their ‘proof of fitness activity’ based on a specific criteria.”
With CHOICE, Vo-Tech students are free to engage in the physical activity of their choice, as long as they can accurately track, document and submit it.
“I see a lot of smiling students who choose to engage in 45 minutes of kayaking, hiking, bike riding, etc.,” said Maday.
“It really drives home the philosophy regarding fitness that I strongly believe in, ‘Our bodies were built for movement.’”
Another creative initiative is getting students involved in the newly created school-wide Tik Tok challenge as a PE unit.
“With the COVID-19 restrictions constantly changing, and our parameters in what we can use being limited, we wanted to tap into the applications that our students are currently engrossed in and make it educational,” said Maday.
“As a PE department, we are always looking into what our students’ current interests are, and how we can tap into it to make it something we can infuse in PEP. Looking further into Tik-Tok, my department and I decided to mirror a fitness challenge that was posted and see if this was a unit we could possibly explore in our classroom.”
Maday and her team soon discovered that the Tik Tok routines were student-centered, individualized, community-building, and would adhere to all COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions. A rubric was then set up where students were challenged to provide modification and had to earn a specific number of points within the class period through teaching administrators, teachers, and students their easily adaptable routine based on individuals’ needs.
“The day of our school-wide Tik Tok challenge was a day filled with excited teachers, students and laughter, something that for some time had felt lacking,” said Maday.
“Our principal, Lynne Jackson, was heavily involved in our student community and was one of our students first picks to teach and challenge.”
Maday has taught PE classes at Vo-Tech for six years and has earned a master’s degree in educational leadership. In February 2021, she received the title of NJAHPERD High School PE Teacher of the Year, after studying at Montclair State University seven years ago. Currently, she works toward finishing her MA+30, while still taking measures to give Vo-Tech students their physical education.