Head outdoors, individualize instruction, and use innovative ideas—three great features of an excellent physical education class. Covid-19 may now push us a little to even greater places. Try to focus less on what you cannot do in a pandemic environment and focus more on how you can enhance the educational experience for all students. As we attempt to balance education and infection control, this is certain to be a learning experience for us all. To help guide us, experts have gathered a living document on the PHE Canada website called “Covid-19 Pandemic: Return to School Canadian Physical and Health Education Guidelines.”
Where do we best do physical education? PHE Canada’s guidelines recommend: “Use outdoor spaces and parks as much as possible.” When that is not possible and a gym must be used, the guidelines stress it is important to maintain physical distancing (two meters or six feet apart) as much as possible and open the doors to maximize airflow. If you have a small indoor space to have students active in, then some students will need to be playing while others are on the side. Students on the side will need to be spread out:
- Consider putting tape or some spot identification on walls to spread students out.
- Students on the sides can be on teams that are playing and pass any balls that go to the sidelines.
- Develop a circuit of exercise stations, and when most of the non-playing students have completed their station, the students rotate or switch with players active in the playing area.
In terms of equipment, the PHE Canada guidelines suggest the following:
- Focus on activities that do not use equipment.
- If equipment must be used:
- Avoid sharing equipment by numbering and assigning each student their own supplies.
- Assemble individualized P.E. kits that can be assigned to students.
- Have students create their own P.E. kits to use at home or at school and set aside a budget for additional kits to be purchased.
- Make sure the equipment has been properly disinfected after each use and has not been touched after disinfection.
- Anticipate equipment hygiene compromises and keep extra equipment on hand so that instructional time is not lost to re-cleaning equipment.
I also encourage teachers to establish a disinfection routine that includes students in order to make that process happen more quickly and so students also learn to leave equipment in the right condition for the next set of users.
What are some examples of how we can do the above?
Note: This article also appears in the Spring 2021 edition of Runner, Health and Physical Education Council (a specialist council of the Alberta Teachers Association).
John Byl, PhD, is the Canadian Gopher Educational Consultant, was president of CIRA Ontario (2003–18), and is a retired professor of physical education at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ontario (1986–2014). Dr. Byl has authored or coauthored over thirty books. He is the winner of several professional awards, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for promoting physical activity across Canada, and he regularly leads workshops across Canada. He has a special interest in promoting fun, active participation for all children and developing and maintaining personal wellness. Find out more information from his website: www.canadago4sport.com