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Rebelles Wrap: Daily phys ed at school lifts Grade 7-8 Louis-Riel students during COVID

By Ottawa Sports Pages, For Louis-Riel Rebelles

Sherry Polomark.

If you ask Sherry Polomark how to stickhandle through a pandemic, her answer will be: more stickhandling.

Home to a popular Exploratory Sports program at the Grade 7-8 level, Louis-Riel high school was resolute in finding a way to continue safely offering physical education during COVID.

Daily phys ed classes for all intermediate students is a cornerstone philosophy at Louis-Riel, to teach students the fundamentals of an active, healthy lifestyle, and enabling them to participate in sports and physical activities with confidence.

So, Polomark went to the drawing board to figure out how to deliver each activity in a manner that’s as safe and engaging as possible. In hockey, that means a greater focus on practicing individual skills (like stickhandling), and playing 3-on-3 with no body contact.

In basketball, it means playing games where it’s easy to stay apart, like 21, horse, and mirror, or doing relay obstacle races. Prioritizing individual skill development has been a guiding philosophy for educators.

“Every sport kind of has its own restrictions, but we’ve worked hard to come up with adaptations,” notes Polomark, the Exploratory Sports program leader. “We believe that physical activity during school hours is even more important during COVID times, especially because there aren’t a lot of opportunities for sports and social interaction outside of school right now. Being active definitely gives them a lift, for both physical and mental health.”

Safety protocols are now a regular part of the routine. Students wash their hands before gym, then clean their individually-assigned equipment. Masks always stay on. Having the giant Dome LR (currently closed to the public) on-site at school is a great tool to promote physical distancing as well.

Within their daily phys ed classes, students got to experience many Exploratory Sports activities and workshops. They made use of community greenspaces such as the nearby Green’s Creek for walking and training.

The students also got to play tennis on 6 outdoor community courts. Workshops on yoga, indoor curling and golf went forward, at school this year instead of off-site. And students also benefitted from weekly physical conditioning sessions with the school’s specialized strength coach.

“I think we’ve been able to create a nice feeling of togetherness this year despite all the challenges,” signals Polomark, a teacher of nearly 20 years at Louis-Riel – her own alma mater. “We’re all facing the same kind of situation every day, so you’ve got to look at it in a positive way, otherwise it’s going to feel terribly long and boring. We’re here to support each other and do whatever we can.”

Smiling eyes

There have been many more creative activities to keep the fun alive at Louis-Riel. The winter carnival – featuring toboggan races and musical chairs outdoors over the intended March Break week – was a hit.

Camaraderie and morale got a boost from a unique team challenge: which Grade 7-8 class (with help from their teachers and students’ families) would be the first to collectively run the distance from B.C. to Newfoundland?

“It’s hard to know for sure right now, but I think most of these kids are going to come out of this better having lived through it,” Polomark indicates. “Life’s always going to throw you lots of challenges, but it’s how you react that’s most important. Is your glass half empty or half full? I think that’s a really important life lesson they’re learning.”

Learn more about the Louis-Riel Exploratory Sports in this brochure and other available programs at: https://ottawasportspages.ca/2020/02/20/louis-riel-sports/

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