California Educator

August/September 2021

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Page 30 of 75

PE teachers are ready to whip students into shape this fall, and it's not going to be easy. After 18 months of reduced activity, the challenge is real. During the pandemic, many students became couch potatoes, sitting in front of screens instead of enjoying sports, outdoor activities or recess. California waived the minimum PE requirements (see sidebar, page 31), although many schools offered virtual instruction. Teachers say some students participated but many did not, resulting in weight gain. "O verall , we've seen excessive weight gain during the pandemic," says Dr. Elizabeth Shepard, medical director of the pediatric weight clinic at Stanford Children's Health Center. Pre-pandemic, children in California had a higher rate of obesity compared to children in other states, and that is likely to rise when new data is collected. Rebuilding students' strength, endurance and energy won't happen overnight, but educators are working on their game plan for returning students to better health. "When the pandemic hit, it was an adjustment for all teachers," observes Sarah Bowers, a PE teacher at Ukiah High School. "Putting a physical education teacher in front of a computer screen was especially challenging. But PE teachers have worked hard to keep kids active and moving during the pandemic. And we are looking for- ward to getting them even more active in the new school year." A tough virtual workout PE was among the most challenging classes to teach in a pandemic. Some schools continued to keep PE online — even when in-person learning resumed — because exertion and contact sports can spread droplets. Trent Suzuki made a big effort to create a "culture of Ready, Set, Resume! PE teachers have game plan for restoring students to fitness By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin "I wanted to humanize [PE] and let students know that whatever they are feeling — including isolation and frustration — is OK ." —Sarah Bowers, Ukiah Teachers Association Sarah Bowers leads a yoga class, which has helped students cope with pandemic stress. 29 A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 21 Sarah Bowers

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