Student teachers keep kids active with virtual physical education class

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (WPVI) – When 7-year-old Tafari Lawrence dribbles a bouncing ball down his fairway, he’s actually in the middle of a physical education class.

“Nothing really seems to be a challenge for him,” said his mother, LeAnna Cook. She began working from home during the pandemic, taking on a much larger role in her child’s school life.

“The teachers have been wonderful, very encouraging,” she said. “Whenever Tafari needed help with anything, they were there to help.”

The grade 2 student was reportedly transported by bus to the University of West Chester for his physical education classes before the pandemic. Her school, Chester County Family Academy, does not have a gymnasium in which physical education classes could take place. So, they relied on the four gymnasiums and various student teachers at WCU to move it forward.

“When you learn fundamental movement skills and specialized athletic skills as a young child, you are more likely to be active in adolescence and also more active in adulthood,” said Professor Frances Cleland, who designs lesson plans for these students at West University of Chester.

“It’s kind of like a three-track circus when we do it face to face,” she said. Naturally, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold earlier this year, such a circus was nowhere to be found.

That’s why Dr Cleland mobilized his own students to offer virtual health and exercise classes to 2nd year students like Tafari.

Every Wednesday, student teachers engage in fun activities like hula hooping, crawling bear and dribbling.

“I want to make sure that I can help these students have a physically active lifestyle to continue their life,” said Sarah Sherman, who studies physical education at West Chester University.

Structured through sub-committee rooms in a Zoom call, the courses allow a more individualized teaching.

“I think we’re going to have skills that other generations might not have,” said Cameron Orwig, another student teacher at WCU. “So I think it’s just going to help us be better in the future to get these kids where they need to be.”

To learn more about studying health and physical education in the Department of Kinesiology at West Chester University, visit their website.

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