Athletics Alterations

The impact of campus closure on physical education


Courtesy of the Bishop's TikTok (@thebishopsschool)

Bishop’s utilized popular video sharing platform TikTok to send important reminders to students.

With the Bishop’s campus closed due to coronavirus, or COVID-19, academic, social and artistic aspects of student life have been altered. Classes that have hands-on components have been struck particularly hard, as the vast majority of students do not have a potter’s wheel to imitate their ceramics class, supplies for Theater Tech, or the materials for robotics. In athletics particularly, little has stayed the same. Teams are unable to practice as a group, physical education classes are not meeting in person, and students cannot be expected to replicate a weight room course in the confines of their houses.

The graduation requirements for athletics state that, between ninth and eleventh grade, students must complete two trimesters of physical activity; freshmen are required to fulfill these trimesters on campus, but sophomores and juniors can have their physical activity be an off-campus one. Off-campus credit includes club sports/teams that are not affiliated with Bishop’s, sports that cannot happen on campus (such as horseback riding or figure skating), and working out at gyms (including spin studios, yoga studios, etc.). For seniors, the requirement is bumped down to only one trimester.  These requirements can either be fulfilled by playing for a sports team or by taking one of the three classes in the weight room: General Fitness, Optimal Performance, or Project: MOVE.

These classes require a lot of equipment that most students do not have access to in their homes. This dilemma prompted the administration to subscribe to an app called PLT4M, an educational fitness platform for high schools that has become a staple in distance learning for many schools. This app allows any Bishop’s student to follow an online workout plan that can be adjusted around the varying levels of equipment each individual has access to. 

Students enrolled in any general physical education class have been given a specific workout routine to follow. The app also allows coaches and teachers to track the progress of each student to ensure that they are completing the requirements. The students and faculty who are not assigned to a specific routine have much more flexibility within the app to pick and choose activities they are interested in. 

Sports teams, while unable to hold practice, are doing their best to stay in athletic shape. For example, the Girls’ Varsity Lacrosse team meets every Wednesday to take a yoga class together over Zoom through local yoga studio CorePower. Maya Ebel (‘21) enjoys seeing her teammates in an athletic setting because “it was such a huge part of our life at school and it really has helped to keep us bonded as a team.” 

Dance classes, which each count as both a physical education and art requirement, have also been changed. Since these classes are not exclusively centered on athletics, they are being conducted in many different ways. Some classes only meet on Zoom for attendance and then follow an independent class plan for each day. Dance teachers Ms. Donna Cory and Ms. Cresence Birder (‘07) each teach one section of Studio Dance Group (SDG) and have taken very different approaches to their online curriculums. 

Ms. Cory engages more with the Zoom technology, giving students the opportunity to share the work they create with the other students in their class. They have also warmed up as a group, stretching and doing ab exercises led by one student in the class. Ms. Cory also planned an activity where students recorded themselves dancing by holding their phones in their hands to see their movement from a new perspective. 

Ms. Birder’s approach is less centered on being together as a class and is more focused on individual work. Students check in on Zoom at the beginning of the period for attendance but are soon let go to follow a general class plan created by Mrs. Birder. They are to warm up alone or with another student in the class over FaceTime. The dancers then follow an instructional video filmed by Ms. Birder, followed by individual improvisation. At the end of the period, the students reflect on what they did during class in a journal entry and then meet via Zoom to discuss their experiences. Haha Shi (‘22) has really enjoyed Ms. Birder’s teaching style, saying, “I love the online resources she’s providing to help guide us in class.”

Even for students not enrolled in athletics classes at Bishop’s, there have been changes to their level of physical activity during the academic day; the switch to online classes has resulted in students moving a lot less during the day. No longer do students need to walk to class, advisory, meetings, or lunch. 

Director of Service Learning Mrs. Jacqueline Gomez has encouraged students to download apps like MapMyRun and Nike Training Club to hold each other accountable by sharing their data with one another, making staying active a friendly competition. She also sent out an email with information regarding an app called Vizer, which allows users to exercise while also helping their community. Each day you complete a 30-minute workout or take 10,000 steps, a meal is donated to the San Diego Food Bank.

The Physical Education Department also produced a video on YouTube that walks viewers through simple exercises they can do with little to no equipment. In the video, the faculty members are dressed head to toe in spirited outfits (with capes!) and take turns shouting out exercises while upbeat music blares in the background.

Bishop’s has also extended its social media presence to popular video sharing platform TikTok. On March 20, the account posted a video featuring Ms. Birder doing yoga in her backyard. The video offered many suggestions to students, including “Get some fresh air” and “Move your body throughout the day.”

Faculty and staff are constantly adjusting the ways in which classes are run on this new online platform and are taking into consideration not only the academic success of students but also mental and physical health.