Teaching elementary school students physical education during a pandemic required some creativity by teacher Ben Paquette. That included him doing jumping jacks in a t-rex costume.
"It was definitely a quick learning curve to figure out how to move something that’s so physical onto an online platform," Paquette said.
But this fall, Paquette expects to be back in action at P.S. 79 in Queens. New city guidelines say physical education, a required subject, should be taught in-person, strongly recommending classes be held outside but allowing them in any well-ventilated space. That comes as some schools are considering turning their gyms into classrooms to allow for more students to attend each day.
"We have one of the older gyms so we have big windows that get a lot of air ventilation into it, so we’re hoping that we can use that space. We do have a schoolyard. Right now, some of our schoolyard is under construction, but we’re going to try to be flexible and use whatever we can and then, just if we have to, like making it work in a classroom as well," Paquette said.
The new guidelines urge schools without outdoor space to consider parks and new open streets. Students must wear face coverings and remain six feet apart for low-to-moderate activity, or 12 feet apart for vigorous activity. No student contact will be allowed, nor will using playground equipment or other shared equipment. Students will wash hands or use sanitizer before and after each class.
"It’s definitely gonna be a different way than I’m used to for the last six years but it’ll be a fun challenge for sure," Paquette said.
Paquette thinks it will be a welcome change for his students, who were stuck dancing, doing yoga and other exercises at home — often sending him pictures and videos — from mid-March through June.
"They’ve got to be kids. They’ve got to have fun. They’ve got to let their energy out. Otherwise, I mean, like, for myself, sitting and trying to teach remotely became very difficult because I’m so used to, you know, pacing around my gym, back and forth, and being here and there. So an elementary school kid, I can’t imagine being home and sitting at a classroom all day at a desk," Paquette said.