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Learning Curve: How Physical Education Works In A Virtual Learning Environment


OK. We're going to move to something else now. Needless to say, this school year has already required a lot of flexibility and creativity on the part of parents, students and teachers. And that word, flexibility - it made us wonder how you teach physical education during a pandemic. It's a great subject for our series Learning Curve, where we check in with educators and families.

Today, we hear from Megaera Regan of Manorhaven Elementary School in Port Washington, N.Y., where the schools are phasing in a hybrid plan. She's a PE teacher, and she's had to learn a few new tricks to keep her students active, engaged and happy.


MEGAERA REGAN: We have the students who are fully virtual. And right now, what's happening is they're doing a livestream with those students. However, we can't livestream PE since we're outside, so we create asynchronous lessons for them and trying to mirror as best we can what we're doing with the kids that we're seeing face-to-face.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: One, two, three, four, five, six...

REGAN: When we're outside with them, they need to be 12 feet apart. But that 12 feet turns into almost 24 feet sometimes just to make sure that they have enough room to move.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: Twenty-one, 22, 23...

REGAN: We knew right up front we were going to need to be able to amplify our voices, so we were able to - our district was able to get us all a speaker with a headset so that the kids, you know, many miles away could hear our voices. We use music to start them and stop them, so that helps a bit. If we do need to speak to them, then we'll have them put their masks back on and come in a little bit closer - still six feet apart - if we want to have, like, a little bit more of a conversation with them than just, you know, saying, start, stop.


REGAN: We're supposed to use little to no equipment, so that definitely makes it much, much more challenging. We don't want to just do fitness-based activities because that's just not kid-appropriate. And one of the things that we're trying to do is focus on their - just their basic locomotor and movement skills 'cause these are the younger ones - so just fun little games where they can be physically distanced, where they have to practice their skipping and their galloping and their hopping and their jumping.

What's really challenging is preparing for all of the different possible scenarios. So think of a lesson - a jump-rope lesson. If I have to be inside, what will I do instead? And how am I preparing for the kids that are fully virtual? So that's basically one skill that needs to be prepared five or so different ways.

And then the biggest surprise - I was really nervous. I thought the kids were just going to absolutely hate coming back to school because of all of the new protocols. But they are so excited and so happy to be in the building and participating in PE and with their friends, even though they're far away.

(Singing) Punchinella, Punchinella.

We're also kind of teaching them some old-school games that we haven't really done so much in the past because, one, we don't have equipment. Two, we have to keep them physically distant. So we're teaching them games like Red Light, Green Light; What Time Is It, Mr. Fox; Mother, May I; Punchinella In A Shoe. So just simple games like Rock, Paper, Scissor - you know, wow. They could do that forever.

(Singing) Oh, we can do it, too, Punchinella, Punchinella.

We had them outside one day, and it started to rain. And I was like, well, we could stay outside under the tent. And they were just like, let's stay out. We want to play. We want to be in the rain. So they're desperate to be engaged in these types of activities.

PE is, I'm going to say, probably the most important subject for the children at this point. They need it. They need to be moving. They need to have their bodies engaged. They need to have whatever little endorphins they have getting released to lighten their moods and lift their spirits. They absolutely have to have that kind of a balance in their lives right now for their emotional well-being. And I'm so hopeful that we can stay in the building as long as possible this year.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Megaera Regan, a PE teacher at Manorhaven Elementary School in Port Washington, N.Y. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.