Physical Education Program Redefines ‘Wellness’ in Virtual Setting

The Physical Education (P.E.) Department has implemented an innovative virtual program that allows students to stay active and practice wellness. Current P.E. classes consist of both physical activities and topics in wellness to engage virtual students. 

According to Karen Kennedy, Instructor in P.E., the department has crafted a program that involves a variety of exercises that use limited space, as students are currently remote or in dorm rooms. 

“There are plenty [of small-space workouts] out there like hotel-room workouts. These are designed for small spaces. There is even a seat workout that I had them do where they stay seated and workout high intensity interval training in a seat. You can still do a lot when you don’t have a lot of space,” said Kennedy.

Remote learning constraints have posed unique challenges to the P.E. department, as much of the typical P.E. curriculum relies on the physical interaction between students during in-person class, according to Kate Dolan, Instructor in P.E.

“Online, you lose out on games and the chance to ‘play.’ Play is good for every aspect of wellness and I think we miss that movement, connection, laughter, and fun the most,” wrote Dolan in an email to The Phillipian.

According to Mason McCormack ’23, a typical virtual class consists of discussions on student health, similar to the Empathy Balance and Inclusion (EBI) program, with the addition of occasional physical activities.

“[Class] consists of a discussion of mental and physical health and giving you the tools and knowledge to maintain those. We write weekly journals which are status updates on all aspects of our health such as sleep, stress, joy, nutrition, connection, and anything else that is relevant. I would say it resembles a more extensive EBI class,” said McCormack.

According to Kennedy, P.E. instructors are using the breakout room feature on Zoom to divide students into smaller groups to discuss various health topics and engage in virtual workouts. 

“The first period [of the week], we have an icebreaker for the day [where] we debrief and then present a new concept. That concept could be flexibility, it could be breathing, it could be something about sleep, or chunking, taking breaks. That was usually the first period, and the second period for the week was usually a quick little riddle as we check in, and then they would get into breakout rooms. This week it was the ten-minute, no jump cardio where it was five or six clips and the students would decide their workout and a warmup and a cooldown,” said Kennedy.

According to Dolan, the new format of P.E. classes has brought unexpected benefits to the program and has provided a unique opportunity for instructors to connect with their students on a more individual level.

“For me, I would say the chance to get to know students more personally through their writing and reflections [is valuable]. Online PE gives us an opportunity to expand our focus from merely ‘doing’ to thinking about each person’s individual preferences, motivations, goals – it allows for more individual attention and variation,” wrote Dolan.