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Gym class goes virtual

March 5, 2010

I am athletically-challenged. Always was. Growing up, I dreaded gym class and hated “field day, with all of it’s potato sack races and three legged jaunts. I sprained more ankles (well…maybe not really, truly sprained) than I can count. The local pharmacy could barely keep up with my need for Ace bandages. But I did a helluva good job as scorekeeper.

So, knowing how much I despise participation in team sports, I was surprised by a new online class being offered to high school kids: Online Gym Class. Well, they call it PE now, but you get the idea. ONLINE GYM CLASS! Now, I always thought I was born in the wrong era, but THIS, this online gym class idea, this clenches my belief.

Here’s the scoop: Students entering 9th grade have a pretty set schedule. There is room for only two electives. My son Dylan, for example, has already filled those slots with AP Human Geography and Latin. So, if he wanted to take a “fun” class, like Art or Chorus, he would be able to take PE during the summer OR he can take online gym.” As PE is mandatory for freshman, this would allow him to fulfill the physical education requirement.

When I heard about this, I was stunned. My first thought was that kids could just “pretend” to do the tasks, log fictitious hours of running or swimming and essentially ace the course without doing the work.  So I had to do some research.

Minneapolis’ school system was one of the first to adopt online gym classes, and it seems to be working. The program requires students to pick physical activities that they enjoy and do each one for 30 minutes, three times a week. Participants keep online journals, and parents must sign forms confirming that their children are indeed doing the work. Students are directed to Web sites to learn about a fitness-related topic and take tests over the semester.

It’s different. That’s for sure. And maybe it’s a step in the right direction. Though I agree that team sports are important — the whole teambuilding is definitely valuable– I don’t think they’re for everyone. I think the important thing is to keep kids active and if that means giving them a choice, rather than force them to play basketball or run relay races,  maybe that’s the key. Childhood obesity numbers are off-the-charts, so maybe this is the answer? I don’t know. Perhaps this shift from competitive sports towards physical activities that interest and engage our kids will help them improve both physical and mental health, for a lifetime.

For me, I still get butterflies when I remember how much I hated Tuesdays and Thursdays — yes, gym days. I was always the last one they called over…”Red Rover, Red Rover…” Oh, the horror.

For students, like me, who dread the thought of gym class, physical education may literally be just a few mouse clicks away.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda Spear permalink
    March 5, 2010 11:32 pm

    ATHLETICALLY CHALLENGED! Wow! Does that describe me! One of my girls is a gym rat and looks the part; the other is like me….round and cuddly like a dumpling….but that’s just the way it is….Loved the blog…I could so relate! Not sure that the new direction with conditioning and fitness is the right way, but it certainly sounds better than making kids sit all day at desks and not getting the endorphins we all need when we move around.

  2. Elizabeth permalink
    November 2, 2013 5:14 am

    The thing that I remember most about gym class was the required group showers in grades 6 through 12. There’s nothing like having to bare it all in front of 35 other girls on a daily basis to be burned into your brain for life.

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