Morris Grove Geckos Keep Fit with At-Home PE
Monkey hops! Burpees! Crawl Planks and Friday Foot Dance!
Imagine the delight and reward of watching a new Gecko Minute Challenge offered each day by your beloved Physical Education teacher to open sessions of At-Home learning. More than a few parents look forward to viewing the challenges, too-- we all need to exercise more when we’re socially distancing!
Lisa Frangipane has taught PE with CHCCS since 2002, first at Glenwood Elementary School (GES) and then at Morris Grove Elementary School (MGES), where she continues to win teaching awards and build strong relationships. Like every other CHCCS staff member, Frangipane had to pivot to plan entirely new instruction with almost no warning when schools closed on March 13. One might ask, how do you teach PE online?
“Looking back at the first week, it was a lot of trial and error to find what worked for me and what would work for students,” Frangipane said. She soon devised a format using brief video clips embedded in each day’s “Morning News” feature, which students and parents could access at any time.
“Honestly, I just started the minute challenges on a whim - thinking this would be a meaningful thing to do for students,” Frangipane said. “It led to a connection with students, staff, and parents! I started March 30 thinking I would do this a couple of weeks and we would be back to school soon. Well, we know that did not happen.”
As the days became weeks, Frangipane experimented with different ways to engage students to make sure the challenges didn’t become rote or stale. Her dog Enzo often plays a cameo role, with or without his tennis ball. Locations change from living room to porch to backyard, emphasizing the idea that each challenge can be done any place in students’ homes. The graphics and filters change: Comic Book Teacher! And many challenges include music, from Justin Timberlake to Sarah Bareilles. For one Friday Foot Dance, Enzo joined Frangipane in a dance to “Rockin’ Robin.”
“Our Elementary PE team worked hard to find the format that would work best for their individual school,” Frangipane said. “We spent a lot of time brainstorming our topics to teach and how to be creative with equipment at home that all students would have access to - we really talked about equity. So, think sock balls, crumpled pieces of paper, and stuffed animals. PE, as well as all the Specials in the district, have done a stellar job in collaborating.”
Frangipane is an avid Twitter user, and her thread shares all of the Gecko minute challenges. “I am a secret tech person - I learned on my own how to use the Clips App and WeVideo,” she said. “Since March 30, my video editing has improved. I just looked (at that first post) and laughed. We teach students to have a growth mindset, so I took that on through this process.”
The Friday Foot Dances are especially popular, and they carry an element of mystery and surprise. Each video features two, or more, pairs of feet-- Frangipane’s and the unnamed guest’s, and viewers are challenged to guess the dancers from the feet. “The Friday foot dance came out of talking to Tracey Hartman (Instructional Technology Facilitator), having guests and figuring out how to record them - with Screencastify. Then we came up with the idea of guest feet.”
MGES Principal, Amy Rickard, said, “Lisa has always been an innovative and dynamic teacher who keeps student health and wellness at the forefront. During this time away from school, her creativity has not stopped. She has designed engaging and fun lessons and videos for our students, and has incorporated a ‘one minute challenge’ into our daily news segments each day. A highlight is the ‘Friday Foot Dance’ each week where students can try to guess the guest dancers! Many families have shared with me how much they appreciate Lisa's way of keeping them connected to the PE program and Morris Grove during this time.”
“So, now, here we are, thinking about how to teach PE very differently in the fall,” Frangipane said. “It is something that is very uncertain and will take a huge amount of creativity to teach our curriculum, as well as the other Specials.”
“Most importantly, I want Geckos to feel connected to MGES- to know they are missed, they’re awesome and should move their bodies every day. I have heard from staff, parents and students how they participate and laugh and how they love Enzo. I never thought how it would impact the MGES community because, honestly, I have been doing this selfishly to feel connected to the students... it's something about saying..'Hey, Geckos..!”