When COVID-19 closures threatened the ability of Troy University students to gain valuable teaching experience in classrooms in area school systems, a faculty member offered a solution creative that has proven to be a win-win for its students and community members.
Lana Johnson, a physical education and health lecturer, made lemonade from lemons using a program that benefited her friends who home schooled their children, while providing the classroom-like experience that students in her program “Teaching individual and team sports I and II” the necessary classes to prepare them for their future.
The program brought home school students to the Troy campus on Fridays during the semester for activities taught and led by its students.
“I started this program because my students couldn’t get into school systems due to COVID, and we needed to find a solution for my students to experience teaching,” said Johnson, whose the research interest is organized physical education for the home school child. “A lot of my friends were homeschooling so we asked them to bring their kids to campus and it really started to snowball from there. Last semester we had 71 children enrolled in the program.
Johnson, who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from TROY, taught and coached at Pike County High School before joining the university faculty and knows the value of the experience for his students.
“My students are able to teach for 50 minutes with these home school children in three different age groups – elementary, middle and high school.” She said. “This program gives my students the opportunity to gain the experience they need before entering the school system.
Senior D’Angelo Parker of Tallassee agrees that the teaching experience made possible through the project has been invaluable.
“It’s a class where we teach kids how to do different activities and we form lesson plans based on those activities,” he said. “Every Friday they come to campus and we can teach them, which prepares us to be physical educators. “
Parker also sees the value of the program in the context of the pandemic.
“As we have gone through a period where we have been isolated from others, this is a good opportunity for the children to come back and be together,” he said. “It’s nice to see these kids come here and have fun. It allows us to move forward as teachers and lets us know what we can hope for in the future. “
Lori Morales, whose 15-year-old son Logan participates in the program, sees it as a win-win situation for the kids and students of the University.
“Being surrounded by his peer group and being physically active has been a good experience for him,” said Morales. “Lana has a great program and loves being on campus. I think that’s a huge benefit, not only for the physical activity and the ability to get out of the house, but also emotionally. Kids can get depressed by being stuck at home and isolated from their peers, so I think this has been a huge win-win for college and the kids.
On a recent Friday this fall, homeschool students maneuvered through a chalk-drawn obstacle course along the sidewalks surrounding the main campus quad. The mazes and obstacles were provided by students from the University’s Department of Art and Design. From there, the students took their places around large, multi-colored parachutes for another set of activities.
Raeghan Worley, a seventh grader participating in the program, said the program was not only fun, but also had other perks.
“I think it’s fun, and of course we’re doing a good exercise,” Worley said. “It also gives us the opportunity to meet new friends and get to know other students at home.”