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NFA's Ms. Kathleen Young Discusses her "Why" for the National Board Network
NFA teacher Ms. Kathleen Young was featured by NYS NBCT to discuss her "why" toward adapting her Physical Education units for remote learning. You can read the full article here or below. Ms. Young is a National Board Certified Teacher who teachers physical education at Newburgh Free Academy Main Campus.
New Challenges Present New Opportunities
by Kathleen Young
As a PE teacher in Newburgh Enlarged CSD I needed to adapt learning to be as safe as possible during a pandemic. Our school year began virtually for students and teachers with a re-entry plan set for late Sept / early October. Re-entry at our high school meant that we would welcome in our 9th graders first - divided into 2 cohorts (Mon/ Tues and Thurs/Fri). There would also be a cohort of students whose families had chosen to remain virtual until the end of the first semester. The remaining grades would roll in one at a time, in 2 week to 1 month intervals.
Traditional PE experiences revolving around sports and personal fitness were not possible because of lack of equipment and places to engage in activity. The extremely varied backgrounds of my students prompted me to explore instructional units that would meet our NYS Physical Education Learning Standards, could be done with limited or no equipment, and be accessible to all students. I wanted to present something that students could enjoy on their own, with their families and friends, and which would be considered a lifetime activity (NYS PE Learning Standards #3,4,5).I knew there was a need for many of my students to move away from their screens, get out and enjoy the outdoors, and find activities they could do without “equipment” or need for special space (tennis courts, basketball courts etc) since those were unavailable. I also felt there was a need to begin the school year with students all on even ground. I created a needs assessment survey using Google forms and was able to determine that all that answered had access to smart phones and access to free apps on their phones. The district provided chromebooks and hot spots. This information prompted me to begin the school year with a unit on Geocaching because it met my criteria. Geocaching is a real world treasure hunt using GPS coordinates and clues obtained from a website or smartphone app. Caches are hidden and logged by other Geocachers and include a log to sign and sometimes “swag”. Geocaching connects environment and technology, encourages environmental “etiquette”, presents challenge, and can be done anywhere.
Most students had no Geocaching experience, creating an even playing field. With everyone starting at the same place, many common learning experiences occurred and created a virtual classroom culture of being “in it together”. Caches are hidden in rural and urban settings, parks, historical spots, convenience stores and parking lots. No matter where my students lived, there was a cache hidden within a short distance from their home. Geocaching provided my students with a completely new experience and opportunities to learn more about our local history and geography. It gave my students opportunities to use map skills as well as recognize familiar places on satellite maps, geocache maps and road maps. Using the maps provided on Geocaching.com and the corresponding free phone app, students were able to go out into the community where they live and search for these hidden treasures.
Some students embraced the adventure and others were less enthusiastic. Some parents and families were supportive of the endeavor and others were quite emphatic that their child would not participate in geocache hunts. So, in order to assess if students knew how to geocache, the vocabulary of geocaching, specific acronyms frequently used, how to read the maps, how to decipher clues and hints, I devised a series of google forms as well as a geocaching BINGO game. Since students are now more familiar with the practical use of maps to reach a particular geographic location, I am planning to expand their understanding by creating a unit on Orienteering which I will begin in the spring.
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