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Empowering Our Educators

How New Learning Models Can Help Us Have Healthy, Active Students

Stephanie Morris

CEO, SHAPE America

The COVID-19 crisis has affected young people of all ages, with many experiencing a level of trauma that can’t be ignored. As we enter a new school year, it’s vital that we consider students’ physical, mental, and social-emotional health above all else.  

Amid these changes and challenges, health and physical education teachers will be more important than ever. 

Health and physical education class is where students learn critical social-emotional skills to help manage their emotions, and handle daily tasks and challenges. It’s also where they learn age-appropriate skills for developing the mind-body connection, which can improve mental health and overall wellness. 

Across the country, health and physical education teachers are busy preparing an environment for safe and supportive instruction using one of three models of learning outlined in SHAPE America’s School Reentry Considerations for K-12 Physical Education, Health Education, and Physical Activity:  

1. In-school instruction with physical distancing 

This learning model allows students to develop important skills and knowledge. Teachers can support their students by focusing on individual skills and exercises that don’t require equipment, rather than on traditional team sports and activities.

2. Distance learning

In this model, teachers focus on connecting with students and families. The school community faces challenges in a distance learning environment, but through collaboration, creativity, and flexibility, teachers can strengthen connections with students on a more personal level while teaching important skills for health and well-being. 

3. Hybrid learning 

Using a hybrid model, students attend school in person on a staggered schedule. Teachers can have students participate in individual activities that comply with guidelines — or implement a “flipped classroom” approach where students begin learning about a topic at home (by watching a video), and then further develop their knowledge in school by participating in an activity or asking questions. This makes the most of the allotted in-school instructional time.

As health and physical education teachers prepare to teach using new models of instruction, they are also developing teaching strategies related to equity; inclusion and accessibility; social and emotional learning; and trauma-sensitive learning. 

In the coming months, we urge parents to talk with school and district leaders about the importance of health and physical education. Students’ well-being depends on it.

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