South Orangetown Central School District

For the past two months, the District’s Elementary Physical Education Team of Chris Counihan, Christy Steingasser and Tom Dehler at William O. Schaefer Elementary School and Jon Jacobs and Sue O’Rourke at Cottage Lane Elementary School, have been producing a slew of virtual contests and activities to keep their students healthy and active.

Although the team has been creative in adapting instruction to the distance learning environment, all five teachers emphasized how much they miss the daily interaction with their students and encouraged them to be safe, stay home and stay healthy.

How has the school closure and distance learning changed your approach to teaching physical education?

Steingasser (WOS): “Distance Learning has not led to a dramatic shift in our teaching philosophy; we continue to strive to create healthy and active students. It has changed our teaching tools and approach. To keep our students moving, we’ve prepared online instruction for students to participate in physical fitness at home. Not every student has access to physical education equipment, so we include activities using household items. We’ve been incredibly impressed and inspired by our students ability to adapt to this difficult situation!”

O’Rourke (CLE): “We’re just trying to help the students find a new normal. We don’t want to overwhelm anybody, so the pace of work is slow and steady. Our lessons encourage students to explore and have fun while staying active. We’ve also incorporated yoga and breathing exercises to help students manage stress and anxiety.”

Can you describe some of the activities or initiatives that have had the most impact so far?

Jacobs (CLE): “One of our big activities at Cottage Lane is the March Madness basketball competition. We were getting ready to begin when school closed, so we made it into a virtual activity. The students did a super job and we received a whole bunch of videos of the kids (and several staff members!) participating. Now we’re planning our Virtual Field Day!”

Counihan (WOS): “One of the events that our students look forward to the entire year is Field Day. It was disappointing to many when it had to be cancelled, so we created a two-week “Virtual Field Day” that our students could participate in! This week and next, a daily challenge will be posted in students’ Google Classrooms. We hope that they’ll complete each task with excitement that extends to the entire household: our goal is for Virtual Field Day to become a fun activity for the whole family!”

What messages, tools or strategies would you like your students to keep in mind with schools closed for the remainder of the school year?

O’Rourke (CLE): “Stay active! Being active and exercising helps in so many different ways– it improves strength, boosts energy, keeps you motivated, increases focus, improves learning, helps you sleep and makes you smile!”

Dehler (WOS): “Our main message is to keep on moving! Many families have provided a structure and routine for students to stay active at home–and generously shared photos and videos of their children in action. We’ve seen living rooms and basements transformed into activity centers! The resiliency of our students inspires us every day.”

Elementary PE team