Phippsburg Elementary School kindergartener Aria Shuck was among the students who enjoyed outdoor physical education classes at Phippsburg Elementary School this winter. Contributed / City of Bath

Midcoast physical education classes get students moving

When Jason Carter led his first physical education classes at Dike Newell and Fisher Mitchell Schools in Bath this fall, he noticed something different about his students.

“They seemed almost gloomy,” he said. “They were all about following directions. It wasn’t like your usual group of energetic elementary school students at all.”

Carter figured the change was directly related to a summer of isolation and uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As children returned to school, they were met with more changes, like partial remote learning. These changes were important in protecting the health of students and staff, but restricted social interaction.

“For my students, PE class is an opportunity to interact and play with their friends. They’ve been stuck at home for most of the year, so they’ve lost some of their teamwork and social skills,” Carter said. “I have been focusing on teaching them skills everyone can access; things they can do at home. It’s actually pretty huge that they get to play with one another and interact during PE.”

Carter isn’t the only teacher using PE class to combat isolation and inactivity. Longtime Phippsburg Elementary School art teacher Rosemary “Romy” Polizotto knows the importance of activity on overall health, but it wasn’t until this year that she had a chance to teach that lesson in a classroom setting.

“When we learned that (physical education teacher) Ms. McCauley would be teaching remotely this year and we would have to find a substitute to fill in for her, Mrs. Polizotto stepped up and filled that roll in addition to her art teaching position,” Principal Sandra Gorsuch-Plummer said. “She has embraced the position and been creative in delivering PE lessons outside in all types of weather.”

With many of their regular extracurricular activities canceled, Polizotto, a former coach in several sports, made it her priority to get students outside, active and (safely) interacting with each other. Working within COVID-19 guidelines, Polizotto plays modified games with her classes, like tag with noodles, floor hockey, obstacle courses, snow shoeing and sledding.

“I like teaching kids to be active and to use activity to stay healthy,” Polizotto said. “It’s also nice for me to see kids in a different setting (than the art room). I get to see the full personality of each student.”