Let’s Get Physical: Reimagining P.E.

While every class needed to be reinvented this year, physical education perhaps took some of the most creativity to redesign. How do you inspire students to be fit and active while social distancing? What happens when the gym has been repurposed to house cohorts? Our physical education teams in the Lower and Middle Schools were up to the challenge.

Lower Schoolers Work It Out…Outside

This fall, Beasley Lower School students thoroughly enjoyed their physical education activities outside on the MICDS athletic fields or from their homes. P.E. may have looked different than usual, but students were still actively engaged in strength-based and flexibility exercises and games.

Lower School P.E. Teachers Sue Orlando and Jim Lohr have continued to adapt and innovate their program this year. For in-person learners, they taught an entire Lower School grade level at one time, separated into four stations by cohort outside on the MICDS athletic fields. Each cohort station was then further divided with a hula hoop space marker for each student. Students worked through exercise circuits in their hoop, such as lunges, side jumps over an obstacle, jumping jacks, and more, and each student also took a turn running around the entire setup. Students rotated from station to station as they used their muscles in different ways for a great all-around workout!

For distance learners, Orlando and Lohr stressed, “Remember the magic number for exercise each day is at least 60 minutes.” They regularly sent home P.E. activities via the SeeSaw learning platform, including videos of on-campus students demonstrating exercise circuits. Students reported back with photos, videos, and notes on their physical activity.

Middle Schoolers on the Move

Middle School students returned this fall to a unique physical education curriculum, in both online and in-person formats, thoughtfully developed by Physical Education Department Chair Eric Lay and the talented educators in the department.

Lay shared some insight into the program: “It’s important to understand how students are assessed in P.E. class. All students have access to their assessment spreadsheet, and faculty and students work collaboratively to assess movement skills and competencies and cognitive skill development as the semester progresses. Grades are standard-based, and all students start with a score of ‘1’ at the start of the semester since they haven’t proven their learning yet. As students improve their skills and progress their learning, the scores change accordingly. Students assess their own comfort and competence in performing various physical activities, and their teachers weigh in with their assessment, too. It’s a collaborative process which gives students a sense of agency and personal responsibility for their own physical education development.”

The movement assessments focus on how well students can perform movement exercises, such as squats and planks, with proper technique and form. Students learning from home watched a video demonstration of the exercise and then practiced the movement until they felt they were doing it properly and with the repetition required. Then, they submitted a video of themselves doing each exercise for their teacher’s review. The teachers took environmental factors into consideration, and distance learners and teachers collaborated to make adjustments and individualized movement skill assessments as needed. On-campus learners received in-person instruction on movement skills and feedback on their progress. All students learned the same skills concurrently, just in different environments.