One minute and 23 seconds.
That’s exactly how long it took Jesse Klym to run around his house three times on Wednesday morning.
He’s used to running around the École Stanley Knowles School gymnasium — but much like the rest of the province’s phys-ed instructors, Klym has been tasked with staying active at home and motivating his students to do the same.
Provincewide, all students are required to take physical education every year, from kindergarten to Grade 12. With schools closed, approximately 700 phys-ed teachers in Manitoba are teaching physical literacy and health from afar.
It’s a challenge when students are faced with the ever-present temptations of video games, streaming services and social media. At the same time, they don’t currently have the option to play organized sports, hang out at the community centre or visit local playgrounds — so educators like Klym are meeting students and their families online to help them stay active.
"A lot of these kids depend on coming to school and that’s their main source of physical activity: just walking around the school, going to phys-ed, going outside to recess, playing around at daycare," said Klym, who teaches physical education for grades 1 to 5.
"Now they’re just forced to stay at home and it’s basically just dependent on the parent, and the parent could be OK with their child just sitting in front of a screen."
Klym sent his 500 early years students a 21-day schedule of activities to complete before school is expected to resume on April 13. Every day, he’s been posting his own completed activity on Twitter.
Among the list of exercises: creating a dance move; doing as many jumping jacks as total minutes of screen-time in a day; and on Wednesday, estimating how long it would take to run laps outside the house three times, followed by testing the hypothesis.
Also Wednesday, École Morden Middle School teachers Christine Bumstead and Brendan Edie set up a live YouTube stream to teach their students zumba. Bumstead, who can usually be found in her Grade 6 homeroom, was invited to lead the class to show off her moves alongside other educators, who were all spaced out in the gymnasium.
She said Wednesday she received messages from a handful of her students after the workout to tell her they’d been following along; at one point, there were 23 users watching the livestream. By the end of the school day, the video had recorded more than 160 views.
"Because we’re doing online schooling right now, it sounds like it’s just a lot of screen time, but it’s also finding those ways where they can go off the screens," Bumstead said.
“If they can see us having fun and doing it and being creative and showing that we care ... I think that goes hand in hand with their engagement." – Brendan Edie
In addition to Edie’s YouTube channel, he’s also been posting video challenges on TikTok — a social media platform on which users can post short-form videos no longer than one minute. The platform is often used to create comedic content and dancing videos.
"If they can see us having fun and doing it and being creative and showing that we care ... I think that goes hand in hand with their engagement. We are going to see some engagement and maybe a little bit more love from middle schoolers," said Edie.
For high school students, Cyril Indome’s workout recipe includes a can of tomatoes, heavy books and a backpack. Since the Windsor Park Collegiate weight room is closed, Indome has suggested his teenage students modify their usual resistance training with the contents of their kitchen cupboards.
He has been recording his at-home workouts so his students can access them online, as well as posting links, worksheets and multimedia clips of activities in what he calls his classroom’s "digital binder" — Microsoft OneNote. Indome advocates for choice in phys-ed so his students understand physical literacy, meaning they are confident exercising and understand the physical and mental health benefits of doing so.
Not only do teachers’ videos encourage exercise, but Indome said they also allow students to feel a personal connection with their instructors by getting a glimpse into their home lives.
"Do as the experts, the officials, the government asks so that hopefully this remains just temporary and short," Indome says in his first YouTube video posted March 20. "Take care of yourselves and each other, wash your hands and just know that you will be missed."
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.