By ALAINA OLSON
Andrea Barrett, girls’ 7th-12th grade gym teacher at Cranberry High School, truly loves her job, but COVID-19 has presented some challenges that come along with virtual learning. Teaching students about the positive effects physical activity has on their lives is a priority to her, and even in these difficult times, she has found ways to appreciate the chance she has to positively impact others.
So, how do you teach gym class virtually? Barrett requires students to complete three assignments each scheduled PE day during the regular eighty-three minute block period.
The first assignment always contains an EdPuzzle and a Screencastify video of Barrett checking in, updating students, giving new instruction, and then offering learning material while following up with a physical activity.
Assignment two is always a GooseChase activity. Fifteen different physical activity missions are available on the app, and students have their choice of any ten to submit as evidence for the day (or all fifteen if the student has two periods of gym class). These GooseChase assignments contain themes such as “Would you Rather?” or “Post-Thanksgiving Core Work.”
The last assignment requires students to complete a ten to fifteen minute interactive module on the EVERFI website. Barrett’s students just completed a mental wellness basics course and are moving into a new course targeting nutrition, alcohol use, and prescription drug use.
Barrett also does her best to work with her students to make sure they understand the assignments and everything required of them each class period. Barrett has enjoyed seeing her students’ at-home submissions while learning more about students’ lives outside of the classroom.
“I feel like I have a rare opportunity to be taken inside their homes and learn about that part of their lives. That is something I did not expect,” explained Barrett.
Reflecting on the former plans for gym class, these assignments aren’t too far from Barrett’s original plan. She knew she wanted to use GooseChase, but Barrett was also aware that GooseChase wouldn’t be enough to supply students with a good education.
Success with virtual teaching has not come without difficulty. After spending a few weeks teaching through a computer screen, Barrett has recognized some major setbacks, including “seeing firsthand how much sitting and screen time affect the body and mind negatively.”
Not having the live interactions has also been very hard for her, and it’s what Barrett has missed the most.
Barrett said, “Teaching, learning, and education is about so much more than the content. I miss seeing the students and the conversations that take place within the learning and the activities that we do. The social benefits of PE are a huge part of the curriculum, and that has been hard or even impossible to replace.”
When questioned about their experiences with virtual gym class, there were a variety of responses from students.
Makaylah Struthers, a ninth grader at Cranberry, said, “Virtual gym is nice, and the fact that you can do it all day at a pace you choose helps. It hasn’t been overwhelming for me. Mrs. Barrett has an organized Google Classroom which helps a ton with assignments.”
Liliana Emanuele, an eighth grader, also noted that, “I’m liking virtual gym! It can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, but that’s how every class is online… There isn’t much you can do for physical education online other than what Mrs. Barrett is doing right now. However, it would be nice to change it up a little and try different programs. I’d like there to be more variety if possible.”
On the contrary, McKaylah Smith, a ninth grader, explained that, “Gym is okay, but it’s not the best thing that we have done. It is overwhelming because you have to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. If faculty was allowed to send material home, I think that they should have, and gym could be held over zoom.”
Not all students may be enjoying remote learning, but they are adapting to it and working hard to complete their assignments. Even though hard times can be overwhelming, and it is easy to fixate on what you can’t do, it is important to focus on the positive. According to Barrett, you just have to adapt, improvise, and overcome, and that applies to both students and staff.
Alaina Olson is a student at Cranberry High School and a member of Cranberry Chronicles, the school’s journalism/publications class.