Student teachers keep kids active with virtual physical education class

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (WPVI) -- When 7-year-old Tafari Lawrence is dribbling a bouncy ball in his driveway, he's actually in the middle of physical education class.

"Nothing really seems to be too much of a challenge for him," said his mother, LeAnna Cook. She started working from home during the pandemic, taking on a much larger role in her child's academic life.

"The teachers have been awesome, very supportive," she said. "Whenever Tafari needed help with anything, they were right there to help."

The 2nd grader would have been bussed to West Chester University for his physical education classes prior to the pandemic. His school, Chester County Family Academy, does not have a gymnasium in which P.E. class could take place. So, they relied on the four gymnasiums and various student teachers at WCU to keep it moving.

"When you acquire fundamental movement skills and specialized sports skills as a young child, you are more likely to be active as an adolescent and also more active as an adult," said Professor Frances Cleland, who designs the lesson plans for these students at West Chester University.

"It's sort of like a three-ring-circus when we do it face-to-face," she said. Naturally, as the COVID-19 pandemic set in earlier this year, such a circus was nowhere to be found.

That's why Dr. Cleland mobilized her own students to bring virtual health and exercise lessons to 2nd graders like Tafari.

Every Wednesday, student teachers deploy fun activities like hula-hooping, bear crawling, and dribbling.

"I want to make sure I can help these students have a physically active lifestyle to continue for their entire life," said Sarah Sherman, who is studying physical education at West Chester University.

Structured through breakout rooms in a Zoom call, the classes allow for more individualized instruction.

"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 for getting these kids where they need to be."

To learn more about health and physical education study in West Chester University's Department of Kinesiology, visit their website.

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