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Discussions on School Re-Entry Zoom Meeting: A Candid Talk About Student Physical Activity, Wellness and Emotional Concerns


As districts across the world struggle to open schools safely while considering the important physical activity, wellness, and emotional needs of its students, Fit and Fun Playscapes has collected a diverse team of educational professionals to discuss concerns, give tips, and offer insights to assist in district decision-making.

View our speakers and the topics we discussed on August 13, 2020, by scrolling below!


Dr. Timothy Davis, Ph.D, CAPE -  State University of New York at Cortland Dept. of Physical Education, Director at Sensory Integration Motor Sensory/ Multisensory Environment (SIMS/MSE) Lab

Segment Title: "Adapted Physical Education Re-entry - Assessment and Sensory Needs of Children with Disabilities"

DescriptionSchools have or are currently submitting re-entry to plans to address COVID-19 and physical distancing guidelines. Unfortunately, much of this discussion has bypassed those who teach children with disabilities in PE and/or Adapted PE. Tim Davis's discussion will address the real-life challenges facing PE/APE teachers on how they can best provide physical education services to children with disabilities. The ability to Plan, Assess, Prescribe, Teach, Evaluate, and Modify are the hallmarks of a quality Adapted Physical Education program yet traditional approaches fall short of addressing pandemic concerns. Assessment and understanding present level of performances after home quarantines lasting 5-8 months will have a significant impact on the motor skill development of all children - especially children with disabilities. Strategies and practical solutions will be shared along with a list of evidence-based resources to guide teaching. 


Dr. Stephanie Adams, DHSc, OTR/L-OT - St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota

Segment Title: "Connections Between the Body, Mind, and Movement and in ALL Children"

DescriptionLet’s talk about an unusual back-to-school season! Stephanie Adams's discussion will reflect and discuss how kids can reach their potential with learning through engagement using their mind, body, and movement. She will reflect on how everyone can support one another and the children during novel transitions in this new environment.


Lori Bifarella,  Elementary School Physical Education Specialist - Attica Central School District, New York

Segment Title: "Floor Markings and Hallway Motor Labs that Assist with Physical Distancing AND are FUNctional!"

Description: Lori Bifarella's discussion will look ahead to what the post-pandemic learning environment might look like, and how teachers need to take an even closer look at what the students will be bringing to the table when they return to school. Their direct emotional impact from the change in each individual's environment may include increased frustrations, distress, or anxiety. They may have been struggling with routines that interfered with their sense of predictability and structure. 


MarieAnne Stockton, Licensed Behavioral Analyst- AccessCNY, Syracuse, New York

Segment Title: "Understanding and Supporting Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder During an Unprecedented Time"

Description: Research supports the use of pictorial, symbolic, and written cues to reduce anxiety, confusion, and memory limitations when teaching new skills. Most students will find the transition back to school difficult; however, students utilizing special educations services will have an even more difficult time transitioning back and making sense of drastic changes in school expectations. MarieAnne Stockton's discussion will explain how the use of visual cues and task analysis will increase independence, reduce anxiety, and support clearer paths to learning new school rules. 


Erin Dressel, MS, PT - Attica Central School District, Attica, New York

Segment Title: "Integrating Physical Activity and Play to Support Physiological and Social Development"

Description: As a PT, Erin Dressel can speak on the importance of the physical development of our growing students in the areas of coordination, balance, agility, strength, and endurance as well as the social development opportunities our students need in order to learn to play properly among peers. This includes the special needs population who require movement for sensory needs and to promote proper behavior, the general population who should have 60 minutes of play and exercise per day, and those young students who thrive on playing sports and playing among peers.


Three Takeaways

Our panelists were asked to come up with three takeaways from their 10-minute segments -- more specifically, the three most important points from their discussions. You can check them out below.

Tim Davis

Stephanie Adams

Lori Bifarella

MarieAnne Stockton

Erin Dressel


Q&A Takeaways

At the end of the webinar, attendees had an opportunity to ask questions and get answers from the speakers in real-time. Here were some of the best Q&A takeaways from the webinar!

Q: How will RURAL/small school PE programs that are historically underfunded handle re-entry?

A: (Tim Davis) – Some of the best creativity comes from our kids! You give them a four-inch poly-spot on the ground and say, “I forgot, can you show me how to jump or do that?” All of a sudden, kids will really just blossom with their opportunities.

But getting back to the rural part, especially with the funding, you have to be creative with what you have in your spaces. For me, I’ve got the best outdoor sensory pathway you could have right over my right shoulder: getting outside, getting engaged, and getting involved with your environment. Sometimes there are great areas right behind your school. Make sure to use those spaces!

(Lori Bifarella) – Being in a rural school district, you have limited equipment to start with. Feed off the kids’ interest – what is hot in their world? I’m not a big fan of Fortnite, I must admit, but use those little dances they can do [in the game] to get them motivated. Tell them to dance those Fortnite dances. Tap into what interests them and it does not even have to involve really expensive equipment. You just have to get creative.


Q: What are some specific suggestions you have regarding the use of equipment in PE?

A: (Lori Bifarella) – It’s a question we all have and we’re all struggling with. We have mini stations with very minimal equipment and it’s self-guided; one-on-one. It’s me, my equipment, my target, my hula-hoop, or whatever the challenge is. But we want to make sure it’s equipment we can wash between classes, whether we’re in the gymnasium, in the classroom, or outside.

I have thoughts of using many mini stations with minimal equipment- equipment that can be washed between classes. US Games and Speed Stacks have teamed up together to create PE Kits. These could potentially be purchased for at home assignments. Each kit is only $20. Think outside the box when it comes to funding these kits. They are $20 if you purchase 50 sets. I would reach out to our parent teacher group for funding support or look for grant opportunities -- they are out there!!

I mentioned Sally Schulte and her EPEW Presentation, "Developing and Engaging ALL Minds in PE.” Here is link to her presentation:


Q: What are some activities via Zoom that we can use for the profoundly/severely disabled students?

A: (Tim Davis) – I’m always first to take out sensory pathway equipment and engage them on a sensory level. When I talk about sensory, it is to engage them from the standpoint of tactile, vestibular, proprioceptive, auditory, visual. However, when we’re talking about a virtual environment, that’s really tough. You’ll need sensory equipment to engage them, whether it’s something at-home like a shaker bottle with some beads in it, or a roll-out game like the copy cat game which can be done virtually. You really can do any type of activity, depending on their ability to engage you on a virtual/sensory level. Make sure to engage the parent to help you!


Q: How do we keep kids in motion while maintaining 12-foot physical distancing?

A: (Lori Bifarella) - One idea that I will be using is the "Plus 5 Fitness" created by Tom Mandara from Victor, NY. I believe it is also an app now for $2.99. The basic idea is it is a five-minute activity with verbal cues with some fun actions that can be done next to your desk. He created it to add activity breaks for the students while in their classrooms.


Q: How should movement be integrated into the classroom?

A: (MarieAnne Stockton) – We have five minutes of tablework and then we’re going out to a space where they can be moving. That’s really our structure – First, Then, First, Then, First, Then. Sometimes, that “Then” is a quick walk in the hall or doing something like a sensory pathway – but this year, the district is mandating we stay out of the hallways. It’s going to be a big struggle, so it makes me think it would be a good idea to put a sensory pathway in the classroom and be able to change it up weekly to make different pathways.

(Erin Dressel) – I think this is where you can pull in technology to increase movement. Sites like GoNoodle, or even auditory music – things where there are auditory or visual movements that kids can follow along is fun. Something quick, something where you can have a little break. That’s all you need: a fun break. The other thing I would say would be games like “Simon Says,” depending on your grade level. I also like the idea of moveable sensory pathways in the classroom. You could move desks, you could march around like a band, you could become a circus – whatever it is in your classroom space.

(Stephanie Adams) – Simplicity is probably the biggest key. If you have a lot of objects that you’re using that are going to need to be cleaned every day, that’s a lot of work. Keep it simple. Students really just need three-to-five minutes to be able to get back to work, so that pattern is helpful throughout the day.


Q: What are the best practices for PE assessment and what are some ways to collect data on goals?

A: (Tim Davis) – At the end of the day, you need to target what your specific goals are. We can move away or off of some of that curriculum with objects that need to be constantly cleaned, but we can’t move away from fundamental motor skills. We can’t move away from movement and motor activities that will help kids be physically active and healthy throughout the day. That’s just absolutely critical.

There is some flexibility within the content you teach within the curriculum and what you assess on. If it’s specific to a child’s fundamental motor skills or physical activity goals you may have, that’s often linked to functionality and placement. But if there in an Adapted PE class, you need to make sure those goals are functional and that you’re able to work on those goals in the capacity of the environment you’re in.

(Lori Bifarella) – I think there’s a lot of flexibility within the way the standards are written to reach the assessment values that we need. I think we need to keep in mind, though, that this is going to be a fluid situation. We only have to get through a few months, but I know that’s not a hard date. I know it will take time, because it could be December or January, or April or May, and all the guidelines are going to change as we go through time.

What I will say is keep with the fundamental skills and things that the students will have success on. Keep building them up, keep building relationships, because if we throw things at them they’re not familiar with, we’re going to lose them completely. Start with a strong base, then we can assess higher-level skills as time goes on.


Q: How should we address K-4 students remotely?

A: (Tim Davis) – First off, there’s some concern about the validity of virtual assessments. Most assessments are asking teachers to be face-to-face as it relates to qualifications for services, but if we are talking about assessments as it relates to progress or present-level performance, that can be done in a variety of ways.

(Erin Dressel) – I’m finding it a big challenge, since a lot of what I do is hands-on. For instance, our district requires plexiglass to be placed between the person giving the test and the student. That’s difficult for me as a physical therapist. I think a lot of it is just going to have to be visual modeling from a distance and what I can see from that distance. It’s going to be a work in progress.


Q: If students are remote, what suggestions do you have for those who need tactile cues especially when remote instruction is heavily geared towards visual cues?

A: (Erin Dressel) – Some of my students who need tactile queues have been lucky enough to teach the parents ahead of time. Hopefully, your student is in a household where the parent can do it with them or know how to do that. It’s a struggle for me as a physical therapist, since it’s difficult for me to show students how to do something like a push-up if they don’t have the right queues. Try something like, “Look at my back, look at my arms, try to mirror me and do the same thing I’m doing, etc.” But yeah, that’s a tough one. That’s a big obstacle.

(Tim Davis) – Any opportunity you can give with a cause and effect, whether it’s a button to hit that makes a sound, whether I stomp on it, sit on it, do what I do, etc. These are all queues that will prompt the child to follow. But like Erin said, it’s about working with the parents, talking to the parents.

(MarieAnne Stockton) – Parents should focus on one skill, one priority during one session. Really show the parents how to work on one skill per session.


Q: What would you recommend for equipment sharing?

A: (Tim Davis) – Focus on the curriculum. The curriculum will tell you what equipment you’ll need. It also depends on the age-level of your kiddos, specifically with their ability to navigate challenges when it comes to cleaning equipment and distancing correctly.

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