I was catching up recently with a good friend and former colleague about life amid the happenings in the world, and we got on the topic of physical education in the fall and what that might look like. As longtime passionate physical educators, we brainstormed and discussed openly the thought of kids coming back to school and what that might look like in physical education. So much is changing day to day, but one thing that kept coming back to our minds was that it was going to look very different than what many of us are used too. Social distancing in physical education is exactly the opposite of what educators try to teach. Instead, we want our students to invoke the spirit of the game with teammates, develop personal relationships, and learn to have an enjoyment to move and stay active with others for a lifetime. However, with a little creativity, PE teachers can help students safely participate in activities by maintaining physical distance while still promoting skill-building and lifetime fitness.
With the start of the new school year coming and districts creating plans for changes throughout the school building, I wanted to arm you with an idea for physical distancing in gymnasiums and large spaces. I started thinking back on all my years in education, and I realized that when I was a student teacher 25 years ago, my cooperating teacher gave me the best gift I ever received. It was a colored grid system and I would like to share that with you to give you some ideas for physical distancing in physical education.
- Create four colored rows of dots, squares, or markings on the floor spaced 6 feet apart for kids to reference as they are working on individual skills and fitness in a safe space. (See attachment)
- On a hard floor, you can use a stencil and temporary marker, paint, chalk, or other removable substance.
- If your gym floor is carpeted, you can use a Velcro system or colored discs placed on the floor. At my school, I asked our maintenance team to place small, black carpeted squares on the floor and the students would refer to colored signs on the wall to know what row they were on. (See photo of my gym)
- By assigning kids a spot as part of a colored row, you can use this system to create equal groups. And eventually, when it is safe to go back to working in teams, you will have equal numbers. For example, with 6 students in each row:
- Blue row is a team and plays the green row team ( 6 vs 6)
- Purple row is a team and plays the red row team ( 6 vs 6)
- Even though your students will be practicing their skills while physically distancing from their peers, they can still build camaraderie and relationships. Encourage your students to engage with each other through verbal cheers or supportive gestures.
As we all look toward a new normal with the return to school, please remember that CDC recommends children get a least 60 mins of activity daily and are also encouraging children to stay active during the pandemic. Shape America recommends quality physical education is essential for all students and has come out with their own “School Reentry Considerations” that prioritize health, safety and ideas for physical education in the fall. As educators, we may have to be more creative in our thinking of how we keep our students healthy and active, but now more than ever our students need us to advocate for their need to participate in physical education and move!
Mike brings 19 years of experience teaching K–12, district and state instructional committees, plus 4 years teaching in higher education and 7 years as a Colorado Department of Education consultant and national presenter. He has served on various Physical Education organizations and boards. With this varied background to share, Mike is often invited to present at national, regional, state, and local conferences.
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