P.E. in a Pandemic

In a year full of drastic change, Pali’s Physical Education (P.E.) department has shown its flexibility while creating engaging e-Learning assignments.

Department chair Mike Voelkel aims to have online P.E. classes as similar as possible to how they have been in the past. However, Voelkel also recognizes that “every household is different,” so the department must make “modifications and adjustments.”

According to Voelkel, teachers agreed to restructure their classes in order to fulfill the four learning objectives — nutrition, wellness, fitness and sport — on an e-Learning platform. Each teacher has the freedom to choose how to implement them. “We all get across to kids in our own methods,” Voelkel said.

A typical day in Voelkel’s online class consists of a quick warmup, followed by a cardio or strength training workout. During their asynchronous time, assignments include writing a journal reflection about their day and researching a health topic. To confirm that they completed the assignments, students have to submit photo evidence of all parts of their work.

Because of this structure, Voelkel said that the load on teachers is immense this year. “We’re over 300 students a teacher and we’re grading papers on a daily basis,” he said. 

Moving classes online means that the days of calculating students’ grades by watching them play dodgeball or timing their school mile are gone. 

Sophomore Samuel Lessans said his P.E. teacher, Danielle Foley, has to balance several responsibilities every day. Foley often has to take care of her young son during class, “so [teaching] is just a pain,” Lessans said. 

Completing workouts on Zoom presents individual challenges. “Some of the kids aren’t watching the Zoom in a comfortable setting,” Voelkel said. That’s why he has his students complete the work independently after he explains the assignment. 

“They need to get away from the computer, and this is one of the ways that we try to create a healthy environment for each one of our students,” Voelkel said. He encourages students to make P.E. fun by working out with their siblings or even their pets.

Although it is in a different format this year, students say the class is beneficial. 

“Typically P.E. doesn’t do much because people supplement it with other activities or hobbies…  but in quarantine all your energy comes down to you,” sophomore Benjamin Santos said. Compared to previous years, Santos said that “P.E. is more valuable as it forces you to exercise.” 

Students say they appreciate the fact that the teachers are working hard to create enriching classes. 

“Kudos to [P.E.teachers] for coping and adapting to such a ridiculous time,” Lessans said.

Santos emphasized how well Voelkel’s class is organized. “It’s one of the best structured classes I think I’ve ever taken,” he said. “Even compared to [academic] classes, it’s amazing.”