Physical Education. The terminology implies teaching students the subject of being physical, much like Spanish education or Math education teaches students the subject matter. In the past, this interpretation of physical education has led to instruction dedicated to motor skills and knowledge, reinforcing to students the benefits of physically active behaviors. Over the past decade however, the focus on physical education in many schools, including WSG, has shifted towards helping students embrace a healthy lifestyle and overall wellness for their lives, in addition to physical activity. It is thought to be a way for students to learn habits and skills that will benefit them over the course of their lives, establishing a pattern of well-being. In addition, The Hunt Institute in 2021 shared the following regarding Physical Education “P.E. [physical education] has been one of the most challenging subjects to teach online, but the irony is, students need P.E. now more than ever, not just for physical health but mental health.” ( Patricia Suppe, president of the California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance). Living through the stress of a pandemic is exactly the reason why we want our students to embrace healthy habits. What does physical education look like during a pandemic, with remote learning or hybrid learning?
At WSG, Physical Education teacher Coach Lawhorne knows just how important it is to continually adapt the program to keep students engaged and moving, despite the challenge with learning spaces on campus or while remote learning from home. As a result, she embraced this opportunity to creatively think about physical education, creating a curriculum and overall wellness focused program that encourages students to be physically active while at home, creatively uses any available space while at school, and also incorporates spiritual and mental nourishment. During remote learning, students were challenged to create their own fitness tutorials and learned exercise and healthy movement methods that they will be able to utilize throughout their lives. She offered opportunities for mental health check-ins with students (and WSG graduates, now in high school), creating spaces for them to share concerns about isolation at home. Through an overarching commitment to student wellness, WSG counselors, teachers and staff collaborated on supporting student’s overall emotional health. When students returned to campus this school year, the challenges to offering physical activity were different due to social distancing requirements, limited outdoor activity space and a lack of a dedicated physical education space. Coach Lawhorne adapted the program again, leading the girls through an incredibly successful step and dance program, held in classrooms. The students’ enthusiasm and engagement in the step routines provided a needed continuation of physical activity at school. Their classroom routines were shared in a school wide showcase in December (featured here), and instilled a fun aspect to their learning.
One of the challenges since the beginning of the pandemic however has been finding ways to get students to still embrace physical activities and wellness each day, even while away from the school building. With a focus on healthy eating, physical movement and activities, combined with spiritual nourishment and balance throughout the pandemic, students at WSG have been encouraged to develop the habits and perspective needed for them to build and maintain a healthy lifestyle.