How local teachers are working to make up for ‘physical learning loss’ with their students

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Last year, many schools held gym class remotely, with students joining in from their bedrooms and living rooms. The online class format presented several challenges, and for many students, physical well being took a back seat.

Sarah Scates, a health and fitness teacher for Central Valley Virtual Learning, has experienced it happen to her students firsthand.

“Some students have resources. They have gyms or they can go outside. Some students are just confined to their homes,” Scates said.

The full impact of the pandemic on kids’ health and fitness will not become clear for some time.

However, we have seen it is already caused at least a short-term spike in childhood obesity. A study by The Journal of the American Medical Association found rates of obesity in 5 to 11-year-olds rose nearly 10 percentage points in the first few months of 2020.

But it’s not just physical health that has been set back. Scates said there is the social component as well.

“A lot of times, P.E. in person is the time for students to get social interaction,” Scates said. “Live Zooms were not so much live workouts with each other. They were more, let’s talk about what each person is doing for their workout. Let’s share, let’s interact and try to find that social piece as well so that the students didn’t feel like they were isolated alone in their rooms.”

Scates has spent the majority of her last two years instructing P.E. and art over Zoom, with students joining in from their bedrooms and living rooms.

“We had a lot of students to teach and often times we were team teaching so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to individualize any of our activities,” Scates said.

After months of trial and error, Scates said her and her colleagues worked to reinvent their classes. They were able to find creative ways to keep kids moving while stuck at home.

“In the virtual environment, we’re able to give students a lot of choices,” Scates said. “That way they’ve chosen, they feel invested in it and I think that’s a big positive.”

Now, just like her students, Scates is back in class, learning to adjust.

“I think they started to build their confidence back up to participate in activities and try new things,” Scates said.

Scates continues to work every day to keep her students active and hopeful about the future.

It is the finish line mentality that keeps her running.

“It’s all okay, we’re all going to be fine, we’ll figure this out. Nobody panic.”

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