Fourth-graders take baskets with a variety of sanitized balls, bats and paddles out to a baseball field marked with targets, as part of a new game their gym teachers have created to keep them active in a safe and distanced fashion. Teaching basic golf-etiquette skills is also included as part of the activity. The teachers have also partnered with the U.S. Tennis Assn. for new indoor activity that will be introduced once winter comes. “Just because you can’t play dodgeball doesn’t mean you have to scrap your PE program,” says teacher Jordan Wallin.
Gym is a challenging class to teach during a pandemic, School News Network reported. But teachers are finding creative ways to get heart rates up while playing by the rules.
Jesse Brinks and Jordan Wallin, who teach gym classes at the East, North and West Oakview elementary schools in Grand Rapids, Mich.’s Northview School District, are starting this school year with developmental kindergartners through fourth-graders learning “all-sports golf.”
At the start of a recent class, Brinks greeted fourth-graders at North Oakview with elbow bumps before they lined up six feet apart and held out their hands for a squirt of sanitizer.
One girl turned a cartwheel as she waited her turn, and a boy at the other end of the gymnasium showed off some Chicken Dance moves.
After a quick explanation of the day’s activity, students raced outdoors, each carrying a plastic laundry basket that contained a variety of various-sized balls (tennis, wiffle, soccer, football, etc.), along with ping-pong paddles and other options for hitting and propelling the balls towards a target.
“Now they have their own equipment that only they use,” Brinks pointed out, adding that time is built into the day for him to sanitize every piece of equipment before every class.
Once his students reached a baseball field dotted with numbered orange cones, Brinks explained the rules of “all-sports golf” before sending them off alone or in pairs, School News Network reported.
He directed fourth-graders Hunter Umstead and Tristan Hawkins to begin at the cone marked 11, about as far afield as possible.
Hunter was already feeling lucky: “I love the number 11!” he said as he ran with his basket toward the cone.
Explained Brinks with a grin: “It’s a sneaky way to add steps for the day. Keeps them moving, keeps them active.”
The class includes basics such as waiting one’s turn and counting strokes, as well as choosing the proper tool to most efficiently get the job done. But instead of putters and drivers—which schools do not have anywhere near enough of in order for students to be able to have their own, Wallin said—the teachers have gotten creative, using equipment they already have.
“You can see them processing which [implement] they should use for certain shots,” Brinks said.
Students will practice all-sports golf until about mid-October, Wallin said, and the hope is to be able to stay outdoors for the next school-year unit as well, if the weather cooperates.
Wallin is also partnering with the U.S. Tennis Association, which donated 30 racquets, chalk for making pop-up courts, and oversize balls for practice, for other pandemic-proof activities, School News Network reported. Yoga and aerobics are also very do-able indoors, he said.
“Basketball, floor hockey, those will have to wait,” Wallin said. “But there’s so many things out there we can do. I was excited for this year, just because it’s a new challenge.
“We need to fight to get kids to continue to have class,” he added. “Just because you can’t play dodgeball doesn’t mean you have to scrap your PE program.”
Brinks, who is teaching elementary PE this year after 15 years at the high school, said he has enjoyed getting back to basics. He started the year teaching students a “dynamic flexibility routine” they do at the beginning of class that prepares their bodies and their cardiovascular systems for activity.
“We’re looking at motor-skill development, proper movement patterns and moving efficiently,” he said. “We have introduced some things to build a good core to work from, in regard to movement and motor skills, and will look to grow those areas.
“Students have adapted very well to our new normal, and have approached our new activities with an open mind,” Brinks said.
Wallin and Brinks teach 700 students each, Wallin at the East and West Oakview schools, and Brinks at North and West Oakview, School News Network reported. They each see half their students twice on alternating weeks.
Both spent the first weeks of the school year on health and safety protocols, such as wearing masks and staying within 6-foot-by-6-foot spaces marked off on the gym floor. “There will have to be a lot of that, to fully cement it in our brains,” Wallin noted.
And the ways they teach certain skills have had to change as well, School News Network reported. “We were oftentimes playing tag games, practicing throwing and catching, sharing and taking turns to work on teamwork,” Wallin said. “We’ve really had to adapt and change things up.
“So far everyone is getting their own piece of equipment for the entire class period, and we sanitize it before we go to the next class,” he added.
“And we’re having kids ‘mirror’ each other and copy movements, so they can still have that partner-to-partner relationship and still have that teamwork feel.”
Typical learning goals have been narrowed somewhat, Wallin said, from “primarily a continuous movement standard for 90 seconds” for second-graders, to fourth-graders spending six minutes running, skipping or jogging. As for practicing being responsible and respectful to classmates and equipment, “we will still be able to hit those marks with social distancing,” he said.
A short video and photos of the “all-sports golf” activity can be viewed at https://www.schoolnewsnetwork.org/2020/10/05/masking-up-for-all-sports-golf-and-beyond/