The Re-invention of Physical Education

When school resumed in person after a six-month break, it was difficult to imagine what Phys Ed would look like. But the Phys Ed team worked hard, starting in the summer, to plan for the re-invention of physical education.
It started out with splitting the team into two groups – a Junior team, who would have only the use of the outdoor space – and a Senior team, who would have only the use of the gym and the FTC. Then they starting planning what kinds of activities they could involve the boys in that would limit physical distancing and be low touch.

“We started planning in the summer based on the restrictions of the sport organizations. We didn’t start the year with shared equipment because we wanted to be safer, but in consultation with Nurse Kelsi, who has been in close contact with Toronto Public Health, we learned that kids in the same cohort were okay to share equipment,” said Athletics Director Steve Turner. “We also changed some of the equipment order, including outdoor basketball nets, and we’ve started out the year with soccer and new activities like lacrosse and pickleball.”

The tarmac has also become the perfect, ever-changing multi-use surface, once painted with four square lines, now delineated with pickleball lines!

Junior School teachers Steve Turner, Drew Blanchette and Sensei David Miller have had to familiarize themselves with the new activities and have been enjoying being outside with the boys, who now have gym class every single day.

“I’m having the time of my life,” said Sensei, who other than teaching the Junior boys judo rolls on the turf, has had to give up his judo classes and the dojo. “I’m working with an amazing group of individuals, the dynamics between the three of us delivering Phys Ed has been phenomenal and seeing the level of fun that the boys have had is incredible. I go to work every day knowing that I’m a part of something amazing in these boys’ lives.”

Sensei emphasized that while the students are learning new sports like pickleball, there is less emphasis on learning and winning in a competitive aspect, and more emphasis on an objective.

“For pickleball, it would be hand-eye coordination and manipulation,” he said. “Each activity is helping students develop the essential building blocks for multiple sports, which is more the objective than trying the actual sport itself.”

In the Senior School, the gym has been split in half and classes are small. When they are live in class, the boys are doing individual skill activities and playing sports like soccer, pickleball, badminton, paddleball and scoop ball. On online learning days, they are tasked with activities like the 12-minute run, an 8-mile bike ride, a 2.5 mile walk or a shuttle run that they must record on their phones and submit.

Senior School Phys Ed teacher John Evans, who has been teaching for 36 years, said this past year of teaching has been a real learning curve – especially technologically – but he couldn’t be happier with the way it has panned out.

“One of the differences is that I’m on call 24 hours a day. I have boys texting me at 7:30 am and I have stuff being submitted to me at midnight. It’s an ongoing thing and I’m absolutely okay with it,” said Mr. Evans. “I feel like I’m really getting to know the new boys in particular and the older boys as well, because we’re interacting all the time. It’s pretty neat what’s going on. It has been fantastic!”