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PE Classes In Virtual School? Yes, It’s A Class And Experts Encourage It

Monacan High School.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in order to combat childhood health problems, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, they recommend that children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 years old do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily. (Photo: Ian Stewart/VPM News)

With the shift to virtual learning, Chesterfield PE teacher Tim Bova worried about his students’ health. He knew it would be a challenge to coach students in a virtual setting, and worried they’d be too sedentary.

“Because they sit at home and look at a computer all day. They're not really allowed to get up and move around and play and yell and things,” Bova says. “So we started out just getting them moving. And then as time went on, we started just slowly building.”

Bova, who teaches at both Beulah and Bellwood Elementary schools in Chesterfield County, says the first thing he had to do was come up with a lesson plan.  

“I would say it's about 50% starting from scratch, 50% thinking, ‘what could we do that we've done before,’ so that we know what we're doing, but can [transition] easily into a home environment,” Bova says.

Virtual school in the county started after Labor Day and Bova says in the beginning, it was hard for kids to grasp the concept of taking a P.E. class online.

“They're purely overwhelmed at the beginning of this,” he says, especially with distractions around the home.

“There are things going on at home, you know, the dogs barking, the parents are watching TV or trying to help their kids or their siblings,” Bova says.

Bova, who’s been teaching for three years in the county, looked to his college days at Longwood University for inspiration. He wanted to find something novel that would keep their attention and that they could do at home, and log rolling - which he discovered at a campus pool - came to mind.

Yes, log rolling, the sport in which people balance on a log in a lake or a pool. In Bova’s case, it was a large, long plastic tube. 

“I'm six foot one, I’m lanky, you know, like a wet spaghetti noodle most of the time. So I was like, I could probably balance pretty well. So I got up there. And I had a good knack for it,” he says.

He would even enter competitions in the sport.

For his students, Bova took the balancing act he learned from his log rolling competitions and came up with a game plan. He took a basic piece of wood and grabbed a PVC pipe to create a balance board, and taught his students how to do the same thing.

“When I teach Pre-K, I walk them through that so I do a little bit of balancing with that,” Bova says. “And the kids, I mean they love it, a challenge that you know they have total control over.”

Other lessons he’s developed include how to juggle with tissues, grocery bags or paper towels; or how to throw and catch basic objects. Once his students got more comfortable, Bova started to include other aspects of fitness, like weight training. 

“So we started off really slow. We started out with just like basic workouts, like using your own weight for workouts, or doing push ups and sit ups. And we're only allotted 30 minutes when we're using the computer for our resource.”

Thirty minutes is far less than what’s recommended. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in order to combat childhood health problems, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, they recommend that children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 years old do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily.

Dr. Misti Mueller is the assistant professor and program coordinator of Health and Physical Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. Part of her job is to teach students who want to be health and PE teachers. She agrees with the CDC but adds, “We used to think they needed all 60 minutes at the same time. But we know that as long as throughout the day they accumulate that amount of time, then they're still going to receive those benefits.”

Mueller says that even if teachers encourage students to take five minutes and walk their pet, or walk to the end of the driveway, any type of movement that keeps them from being sedentary will help. 

Since October, Bova has had to teach virtual and in-person students. His normal routine of teaching a group of students once a week will change to teaching them once every five weeks.

“So when this started, we didn't know what the schedule was going to be, we kind of went into it blind, we knew we're going to be virtual to begin with,” Bova says. “And at some point, kids would come back. And we didn't know if we're gonna do it on the weekly schedule or the daily schedule of how we were going to see these kids.”

Physical education classes, like music or art classes, are known as resource classes. Pre-COVID-19, students would attend resource classes once a week in a rotation. But now, new guidelines are in place to keep students in one resource all week long. After that week, says Bova, they’ll move on to the next resource. 

To help keep kids active when he isn’t seeing them, Bova has come up with both a fitness and nutrition plan.

“I want to do nutrition unit one because it's something that's easy for kids to get,” he says. “Here's healthy, here's not healthy. If you can break it down to that for kids, that's all they really need. Fruits and vegetables are healthy, grains are healthy. Proteins are healthy.”

On the fitness side, he’s been helping them come up with a number of exercises they can do on their own, and telling them to continue the ones they’ve already learned.

“I really wanted these kids to get a hold of a healthy lifestyle, even though they're pretty much gonna be doing it on their own,” Bova says. Even if they don’t have a lot of time together, he wants them to keep moving as much as they can.


Ian M. Stewart previously was the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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