For New Hampshire's Phys Ed Teachers, Gym Class In The Time Of COVID Means Getting Creative | New Hampshire Public Radio

For New Hampshire's Phys Ed Teachers, Gym Class In The Time Of COVID Means Getting Creative

Oct 28, 2020

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Kids in school have had to take precautions to protect them from COVID-19, and that includes during gym class.

New Hampshire's physical education teachers have made efforts to keep kids physically distant, and some have gotten creative with videos and games to keep kids active as they learn remotely.

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Amy Girard is a physical education teacher at Henniker Community School. Recently she spoke with NHPR's Peter Biello about how she's keeping kids engaged.

Listen to the interview:

Note: The following transcript may contain minor errors.

Peter Biello: So before the school year started, what did you think it would be like?

Amy Girard: I was very unsure of what it was going to look like, and it changes all the time, just like everything in the world right now. It's changing all the time. Originally, I wasn't sure if I was going to be actually able to teach my classes in person, but we were able to make sure that that could happen. So I thought I was going to be teaching through Zoom and fortunately we are able to hold class outside. So that's where I teach my classes.

Peter Biello: And when you're outside, are you playing games that don't involve, for example, touching the same equipment or running around in masks? How are you accommodating all the things we have to do to stay safe during the pandemic?

Amy Girard: Right. So what I have done is I've taken my line painter outside and I have painted lines so that the kids can stand six feet apart. They do have to wear their masks during class. They are allowed to have a mask break when they ask for permission and during class time because they're in cohorts, they are with their class all day long. So what we do is I do play games using the same equipment and at the end of class, I have sanitizing wipes that the kids use to clean the equipment for my next class.

Peter Biello: And what kind of games do you play or what kind of things do you do that work well in this pandemic environment?

Amy Girard: So right now I'm doing some Halloween games and so we're using equipment that can easily be cleaned so plastic cones can be wiped off. I have foam balls that are gator skin balls, is what they're called, and they have a tougher skin so those can be wiped off. So minimal equipment, but equipment that can be cleaned easily.

Peter Biello: And what have the kids been saying? What's the feedback been like?

Amy Girard: You can see that they're happy to be back at school and they're excited. They know things are going to be different. They know everything can't be the way it used to be. And kids are resilient and they've they've really done a nice job.

Peter Biello: And what about parents? What is the feedback from parents been like?

Amy Girard:  From what I know and what I see because I also do morning drop off and afternoon pick up, parents seem happy and excited that we are able to be at school five days a week and that we are in cohorts and that we're doing things safely, and that we can continue to be in school because of all the precautions we're taking.

Peter Biello: And if learning has to go fully remote, whether it's because of a rise in COVID cases or just because the weather is getting colder and it's harder to play outside, what are your plans for teaching gym class remotely if we have to go remote?

Amy Girard: Last spring, when I was teaching remotely, what I would do is I would put activities on my school classroom and they were videos of me doing an activity, playing a game. And then some of the students would take pictures and videos of themselves playing those games, and then they would send it to me through Google classroom. So activities that can be done at home using whatever people have around their houses. One of the activities was skeeball, the arcade game. And I use pots and pans and some cardboard and a ball that I found in my house. And I videotaped myself playing that so they could practice their rolling skills rolling of a ball. So their fun little games, usually the excitement of making it and or getting the equipment together from your house takes up more time than the actual game. But it's fun.

Peter Biello: Why is it important for kids to maintain that type of activity when most of the learning they're doing is remote?

Amy Girard: Right. So they're on the computer more now than ever. And it's it's part of my job to make sure that they're not just sitting in front of the computer. There are a lot of benefits to being on the computer and using technology. But we want to get the kids up and moving and it's important for their learning to be physically active.

Peter Biello: So stress relief is often a benefit - and how do you envision the rest of the school year unfolding?

Amy Girard: I hope and I am keeping my fingers crossed that we stay in school. We are going to be outside as much as possible when we have to be inside will do some activities in the classroom. But I plan on being outside as much as I can. And I've told all of my students that I said prepare for the weather because we're going to be outside.