November/December 2020 Issue
October 18, 2020

P.E. teachers go all out

Author: Liza Frenette
Source: NYSUT United
physical education
Caption: Newburgh P.E. teacher Kathy Young uses geocaching as a way to get kids outdoors and exercising. Photo provided.

Physical education teachers continue to mix it up online and outdoors in an ongoing joust to keep students active during COVID-19.

Weight gain, diminished motivation, loss of strength and muscle tone, and mental health challenges are all worrisome effects of not having regular physical exercise. Educators report seeing students remain in bed while taking classes online, sometimes still in the same clothes for several days.

National Board Certified physical education teacher Kathy Young of the Newburgh Teachers Association began the sudden shutdown by having students log a half hour of activity, listing the exercise (yoga, Frisbee, running) and why that exercise was chosen (cardio, strength).

“I was posting a few times a week on different types of workouts and ideas for strength training,” she said.

On Fitness Fridays, she has students do short workouts and take resting and working heart rates.

This year Young is trying something new, with a geocaching unit that gets students outdoors and combines technology with history and geography as they hunt for items.

“I hope a lot of kids are finding these outlets as a way to cope,” Young said. “As educators we can see how much kids need these.”

Many students have also lost opportunities for exercise with limited to no access to sports teams or leagues, noted Saranac Lake high school physical education teacher Jason Wamsganz.

“Kids are not getting the exposure. Opportunity is one thing we all worry about,” he said.

In P.E. classes, he looks to introduce students to lifetime recreational activities. The school had purchased mountain bikes and fly-fishing gear, but with concerns about sharing equipment he is focusing students on walking. Longer class periods under COVID-19 scheduling gives teens time to walk three miles on a school nature trail network. He also sends out workouts on Google meets for the students who are at home on alternate days.

“As educators, we’re trying to find a silver lining with this,” Wamsganz said.

Find SED’s guidance for physical education on page 101 of the Reopening Schools guidance at