Fostering a lifelong love for fitness and physical activity in students is often a guiding principle at all levels of Physical Education. Past just loving it, teachers hope to instill a variety of skills that students can confidently use to stay healthy and active for the rest of their lives.
The same principles apply at the middle school level specifically, but with its own unique challenges. For Roxanne Bush, now in her 23rd year of teaching, she is well aware of what it takes to teach PE to middle school students.
“Students at this level crave choice and different options. As teachers, we need to help foster that with various activities, units, and opportunities throughout the year. And on top of that, we are tasked with teaching certain components of health and wellness.”
In her 13th year at Glenwood Middle School in Illinois, Roxanne strives for variety but always keeps one eye on the crucial component of overall fitness.
“No matter what the unit, we always work in fitness. It is important that our kids stay active, even if we are covering a health unit or whatever it may be.”
With over 750 students at this 7th and 8th grade middle school, Roxanne and her colleagues always have their work cut out for them!
Growing Interest In Fitness
As the team of middle school PE teachers work together to serve their students, they keep an eye on what they could do to develop and improve as a department. When Roxanne found out the high school had been using PLT4M as an educational fitness program for a few years, she wondered if it could also be used at the middle school level.
One way she saw early glimpses of its potential was through the football team coming down to the middle school after school. (See how Glenwood Football uses PLT4M from a previous case study.)
“The football program would come to the middle school and work with some of the boys and teach them the foundations of fitness and strength and conditioning. We started to ask ourselves, ‘why aren’t we doing this with all our students during PE?'”
With interest in setting the middle school students up with a strong foundation, she went to the high school to observe and see PLT4M in action during the PE classes. Roxanne saw a variety of students, not just athletes, all working to develop the basic components of fitness and strength and conditioning. After her observations, she knew that this could be beneficial to start with the middle school students.
“We were really gaining some momentum in getting PLT4M set up at the middle school, but then Covid came. We hit a roadblock.”
As the school did it’s best to keep students active and engaged across all subjects, bringing something new into the school like PLT4M for PE didn’t seem feasible.
New School Year, New Chance
After weathering the spring and final quarter of school before summer, the middle school had a chance to regroup and thoroughly plan for the fall.
Even though students would be returning in a hybrid model, many of the units and activities they typically had done in the past were no longer options. The PE department, still hoping to make fitness a priority, knew that PLT4M could still be on the table given the in-school and at-home learning options.
With the district weighing its options and the clear need for online resources, Roxanne had a new chance at getting PLT4M started.
With the support of administrators and colleagues who had seen its success at the high school level, Glenwood Middle School got approved to launch and start PLT4M.
With new technology such as Canvas being added to students’ plates and half of the class being in person while the other half was remote, Glenwood needed to be strategic in rolling out the new technology into PE.
Starting Small – Mastering Mobility
Wanting to keep things simple for students, the main focus for Glenwood PE in the first few weeks of school was getting students signed up and familiar with what PLT4M was.
“We started with the Mastering Mobility program. It was a nice onboarding for middle school students. They could log in, poke around, then work through a simple, easy to follow 20-minute mobility session.”
And as they got students comfortable with the mobility program, they looked ahead to how they could transition the students to their first robust introduction to fitness.
Intro To Fitness
With students’ comfort levels up and the excitement buzzing around this cool new technology they had, Roxanne was happy to see students ready to switch over to the Intro To Fitness program.
And with students at home and in-person using PLT4M, Roxanne knew she could support both groups through their first formal introduction to movement and technique.
Students at home are instructed to log in to Zoom at the start of class for a briefing. From there, they can turn their cameras off and work through the daily lesson via PLT4M.
“For middle school students, the cameras going off was a big deal when it came to learning fitness. Instead of having a camera in their face and feeling self-conscious, they can shut it off and use PLT4M. With the time stamp feature in PLT4M, I can monitor and make sure students work through their lessons via the app in realtime.”
With her students at home covered, Roxanne can focus her attention on the students in person.
Facilitating PLT4M in Class
During class, Roxanne chooses from two options for facilitating the class. In some classes, she puts the PLT4M instructional videos on the projector in the gymnasium, and they work through the lesson as a group.
On other days, she provides a little bit more choice. Students can come in and go through the program in a self-paced fashion. Because the students now are 1 to 1 with devices, they can all spread out with their computers and get to work.
“On these self-paced days, we also give the kids an option to choose from a Mastering Mobility session. I think it is still really important that middle schoolers feel like they have a choice in their fitness.”
Feedback & Connections
Because both options allow students to tap into the instructional videos and resources within PLT4M lessons, Roxanne is free to move about the classroom to build more individual connections with students, a key component of SEL education.
Roxanne uses a cardio example as a fun way she can build a relationship with her students.
“In PLT4M, the different cardio options give students some choice during a workout. I go around and ask what option they chose and why. It’s small, but it’s just one example of how I am leveraging the content and building connections at the same time.”
And while the cardio example is one small way Roxanne can go about and start conversations, she also focuses on helping students with good form and technique.
“I want everyone to feel like they can move confidently, comfortably, and safely. And there is no one magic bullet, be it me, PLT4M, or anything. But a little bit of help from all angles can start to help kids move in the right direction.”
Moving In The Right Direction
For Glenwood Middle School, this is just the start. While PLT4M has offered a great resource and solution during Covid, she sees the potential to grow even once things go back to normal.
“We will want to continue building everyone’s strong foundation of fitness via PLT4M. From there, we can grow and help the kids who do have an interest and appetite into some of the more advanced programs. It will just add to our diversity of units and offerings we want to continue with our middle school program.”
And the options don’t end at fitness. PLT4M has lots of different programs available ranging from nutrition, personal fitness, weightlifting, written assignments, and more!
As a department all about balance and providing new and different fitness opportunities, Glenwood Middle School PE has integrated PLT4M as a helpful resource in their pursuit of fostering a lifelong love for fitness in their students.