Teaching Continues

Manitoba public school teachers are having to solve a problem they’ve never faced: teaching students when none are in the same room. We are collecting and highlighting some here.

If you or your colleagues are solving the problem, let us know. Please email either Samantha Turenne or Lindsey Enns, we’d be honoured to tell your story.

Can Geo Education launches online classroom

Students can virtually explore the world or learn about backyard biodiversity and climate change thanks lesson plans and resources on Canadian Geographic Education’s first Online Classroom.

“Our existing website is a great place to find resources, but we have always dreamed of having a more interactive online platform that sees topical resources released at regular intervals to teachers,” said Michelle Chaput, acting manager of education programs at Canadian Geographic Education. “Our Online Classroom now gives us the chance to do this, and also to reach a wider audience that includes not only teachers, but parents and youth too.”

The classroom, which was launched on March 31 and can be found here: https://onlineclassroom.cangeoeducation.ca/, includes lesson plans and teaching resources for students in kindergarten to Grade 12. Parents, teachers and students are invited to register to receive a monthly newsletter with tips on all things geography, including maps and posters, as well as the ability to apply for grants and awards.

The classroom’s inaugural resource was their Anthropocene Education Program, which is a collection of virtual reality, photography and film that explores the human-environment relationship and gravity of human impacts on the earth. The program includes a collection of audiovisual resources that takes students out of their classroom or home into unfamiliar environments around the world.

“Geared toward Grades 4 to 12, this initiative develops student’s understandings of our world’s most pressing environmental challenges, such as plastic waste issues, species extinction and climate change,” Chaput said. “Through evocative photography, a documentary, 360-degree cinematography, and captivating augmented-reality installations, this multimedia project explains the emergence of the Anthropocene epoch, distinguished by human-caused changes to our planet.”

Each week new activities and resources will be added exploring themes such as Anthropocene, relationships of populations in Canada’s history, energy literacy and sustainable development as well as current events, including COVID-19. All of the resources, which are written by educators, include links, short activities as well as more formal or traditional lesson plans with reliable sources that dive deeper into the subject matter. They will also be incorporating Indigenous education materials on their Google Voyager story on Indigenous Cultural Heritage as well as their Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada project, which will be uploaded soon.

“Teachers can look at a specific age group for resources, but we encourage them to visit the other age groups as well as many of our activities can be modified to suit higher or lower grades,” Chaput said, adding everything they offer is also bilingual. “We have put out a call to any teachers or educational assistants interested in volunteering their time with our organization. So many teachers are doing wonderful things and so many teachers love to share what they do. We would like to feature some of their work on the Online Classroom.”

When it comes to keeping students engaged in remote learning, Chaput says regular video check-ins can go a long way.

“Even if the entire class cannot make it on the call, those who can will truly appreciate seeing a friendly face,” she said. “Keep activities short and to the point, but with an element of fun or whimsy to capture their attention.”

Despite being a geographical organization, Chaput says teachers covering all kinds of topics could benefit from their Online Classroom.

“Geography is at the heart of everything, of every subject and every research question, there is going to be something for everyone.”

Peg City teachers take learning to IG

It started out as a way to keep teachers connected through the class suspensions, but in one week, the @pegcityteachers Instagram account has amassed a following of 250 users and more than 1,000 profile views.

The account started by Jennifer Scott and Colleen Heuchert-Hammell, Early Years Support Teachers with the Winnipeg School Division, is now being used by teachers and parents to help with remote learning.

“We were looking for an effective and efficient way to provide continued support to our teachers virtually,” said Scott. “But then our friends, who are parents, started to come to us looking for advice on how to set routines and homeschool their children during the school closure.”

Scott and Heuchert-Hammell are both experienced in teaching many grade levels and were former Special Education Resource Teachers.

Through @pegcityteachers, parents and teachers, were invited to participate in a 20-day learn at home challenge, geared towards students in kindergarten to Grade 8.

Each day, the challenge is an engaging project-based learning theme tied to the Manitoba curriculum and the 4 Cs of 21st Century learning – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.

Some of the challenges have included things like learning about angles and then using that knowledge to build a fort to use as a reading nook to having students create their own animals on the Switchzoo website and watch Assiniboine Zoo’s livestream Creature Feature.

Mental health and well-being is also on the agenda, with the first challenge asking students to use a Kal Barteski art piece to help them reflect on how they will spend their spare time, while staying in and practicing social distancing.

“It has been such an exciting and rewarding experience for both of us,” said Heuchert-Hammell. “We’ve seen consistent engagement from both teachers and parents which tells us how needed a resource like this really is.”

One of the biggest challenges for the duo has been choosing from the numerous virtual learning platforms, which have seemingly tripled since the COVID-19 pandemic forced worldwide school closures.

“Both professionally as teachers, and personally as moms, we’ve noticed that while effective virtual online learning is possible, it’s a unique challenge when we’re bombarded with a variety of ways to connect virtually,” said Scott. “Staying connected with students is critical right now but equally important is finding an effective online platform which allows for meaningful contact, connection, and interactive learning.”

Scott acknowledges that while a more all-encompassing tool like Google Classroom or SeeSaw could provide additional components to simulate those of the classroom the choice to use Instagram was simply because both teachers and parents already use it

Louise Waldman is one of the parents who has been using the challenges on @pegcityteachers to keep her daughter engaged and learning over the school closure.

“My daughter told me that she’d never before started spring break wishing she could be in school,” said Waldman. “Checking in with Peg City Teachers on Insta every day has been a great way to add some routine and normalcy to our ways. And a way for her to feel connected.”

While Scott and Heuchert-Hammell are isolated in their own homes, they both agree that this has been a positive experience and that their collaborative efforts have strengthened their resolve.

“Instead of focusing on germs and COVID-19 our attention is on connecting with others, giving back to our community, and highlighting other local Winnipeg individuals and businesses like The Assiniboine Zoo, Kal Barteski, and Siloam Mission,” said Heuchert-Hammell. “Interactions with a community of followers who have a shared purpose to create meaningful learning experiences for our students is heart-warming.”

Teachers ‘doing a remarkable job’

Manitoba’s education minister and premier are commending the efforts teachers are making to keep their students engaged in distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Teachers have been doing a remarkable job,” Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said following Tuesday’s announcement that Manitoba is suspending K-12 classroom learning indefinitely for this school year. “Our teachers and the staff within our school system, they have taken on the challenge of ensuring that students continue to learn and progress and they’ve done it with professionalism and passion and we are tremendously proud of them.”

Premier Brian Pallister echoed that same sentiment and spoke about the importance of a quality education in Manitoba.

“Resiliency matters, education matters, both are essential to us bouncing back as we will from this pandemic’s challenges,” Pallister said. “Quality education will be vital in our economic recovery long after this pandemic passes.”

No students will be held back because of COVID-19, but students must actively engage in learning, Goertzen added. ,

“While this continued learning will be difficult for younger students particularly, we are actively working with school divisions to find best practices and enhance their existing resources,” he added. “I join all Manitobans in asking educators to continue doing all they can to use remote and innovative methods to teach students through the remainder of this school year.

“Our government is asking for an all-hands-on-deck approach, with their assistance and with that of parents, caregivers, principals, trustees and superintendents for the benefit of all students.”

Epic teacher lip dub

Ready for some much-needed spring break cheer? This seriously fun lip-dub from the teachers and staff of Mountain View School Division absolutely delivers.

Staff from 15 area schools and buildings put this video together to bring joy to their community. The side benefit was an invaluable opportunity to hone their technology chops as they move to more ed tech options for their students. Teachers, principals, EAs, coordinators, computer technicians and so many others choreographed, performed and shot video.

MTS member Kirsten Thompson, ICT co-ordinator for the division, pulled all the magical clips together into the final production. “Our staff participation really doesn’t surprise me. MVSD has a great sense of community and we’re always looking for new ways to strengthen our understanding to benefit our students.”

Watch the video here

Staying connected without technology

Writing letters, phone calls and delivering homework packages are just some of the ways teachers at Juniper Elementary School in Thompson are staying in touch with their students.

“It’s more of a community here than it is a school and it’s like a sense of loss,” Grade 4 teacher Kelley Taite said, referring to class suspensions across Manitoba. “Our schools are so sad, teachers are sad, we’re used to having little people with us.”

Taite said it’s important for teachers to let their students know now more than ever that they’re here for them.

“I think the kids still need to see that we’re still here … and we’re still working towards their education.”

With that in mind, Taite and other teachers at the school have been finding all kinds of ways to teach their students lessons outside of the classroom. Since not every student has access to technology, they’ve had to be creative. Hand written notes, phone calls and making homework packages has been a school effort over the past several days.

“In times like this when we go out of our comfort zones, we can provide a quality education,” she said. “Just having that communication piece, being able to write, telling them what we miss about them, just having that old fashioned piece has been great.”

While some teachers plan to pull out their tape recorders to send their students messages that way, others are creating videos.

Kaidie Morris, who teaches Grades 1 and 2, has been sending her students a video of her reading every morning, just like they would start their days normally in class. She’s also been sending them video updates of their class pet, Bruni, the bearded dragon. Since some of her students don’t always have access to technology, Morris says the videos are great because they can watch them on their own time.

“Everyone’s experiencing new challenges but up here we have a lot of kids without technology,” Morris said. “But we do have the advantage that we’re a small community so we can deliver work to them easily if needed.”

Taite says she’s hoping to keep the school’s land based lessons alive by making videos about ice fishing and how to make a dream catcher.

“We’re really looking at doing everything we can to reach our kids,” she said. “I’m quite excited about what our Manitoba teachers have done, and I’m proud to be one of them.”

Musique de la kitchen

For those of you not familiar with Franglais, the unofficial – official language of Canada, musique de la kitchen means music from the kitchen. The kitchen is where Jennifer Paszkat has moved her music class.

Paszat, a dual track teacher (French/English) quickly realized that the class suspension meant that some of her students would not have access to instruments at home, so she did the next best thing- she started a kitchen band.

“My Grade 2 students had the opportunity to go to the WSO for a concert and we heard the musicians creating music using things found at home, so I figured why not and the kitchen band was born,” said Paszkat, a K-2 music teacher. “I want them to practice some rhythmic patterns that I have provided. They can compose music or just have fun doing the rhythmic patterns.”

The intent is that the students progress from making the instruments to doing the rhythms eventually moving on to composing.

In addition to music, Paszkat also teaches Grades 1 and 2 Early Exposure French another subject that is extremely hands on with a predominately oral based curriculum.

“For many parents their only prior experience with French was when they went to elementary school,” she said. “We also have a large number of EAL students, which means their parents, are learning English and may not have the confidence to help their child in French.”

She turned to SeeSaw, a program recommended by her school division for communicating with families, and ended up creating videos that fulfilled the needs of all her students – la musique en français.

“I know all my Grade 1 and 2 French students know our welcome song Bonjour mes amis so I asked them to make a video with their family,” she said. “It was a beautiful example of how students can teach their parents and it was obvious how much fun everyone had. We had whole families singing together, moms and their kids. This is what it should be like.”

Paszkat said her favourite video was the student who had her cat on her lap, while mom was singing in the background.

“It has been great to see the couple of students who are reluctant participants in French singing away,” she said.

She has also been in contact with a musician friend who is also a French teacher and convinced him to put on a live concert in French for her students.

“We have done some of his songs in French class, so the kids were familiar and eager to participate. There is that cross-curricular connection again – French and music.”

Paszkat is very grateful for all the work parents have been putting in and sings their praises.  She also offers reassurance in a time of great upheaval.

“As a parent this can be overwhelming. You have to work from home, if you are still working, you have kids of various ages and abilities and you might have older family members in your household you care for,” she said. “Parents do not need to run a school in their house. Do not feel bad if your kids played on the iPad or watched TV more then they did math. Do not feel guilty. What kids learn is amazing. They remember things we forget and that in itself tells us they are learning.”

She said it is important to not burden parents with busy work and while she posts links of resources and activities she considers helpful or interesting, it is only a suggestion for those parents looking for something extra.

“I trust our families are doing what works for them,” she said.

Paszkat, the mother of two boys, one in kindergarten and the other in Grade 3, uses them to trial the activities she plans for her students.

“If I get a thumbs up from them then I know it is worth posting,” she said.

While she is working hard to keep students engaged, she is painfully aware that there are some who are not logging in.

“It is always a worry when you don’t see or hear them because they are like your extended family. You get to know and care for them. You get to know their families,” she said. “There is a special place in my heart for all my students. I want to know they are ok and vice versa.”

A secure foundation for learning

Randal Bychuk appreciates order in a classroom, along with a good dance-off. Throughout his almost two decades in education the elementary years teacher has created spaces that are at once structured and purposeful, imaginative and warm. That framework creates a secure foundation for learning that his students rely on.

No surprise then, that in the unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves, Bychuk sought to recreate that same sense of security in his now virtual Grade 4 classroom.“This all happened fast,” says Bychuk of the planning he and his École South Point School cohort of four Grade 4 teachers began less than two weeks ago. “We wanted to create a sense of continuity so that an already overwhelming situation wasn’t made worse. So our team worked out a plan for the first five days of suspended classes that supported learning in a way that would ease all of us—teachers, students and parents—into what could be a longer term situation.”

The result was a schedule that mirrored a regular school day, with flexibility built in to accommodate down time.

“We wanted to put structure to the day yet we understood that these were not regular school days. There needed to be a balance between the need to stay connected with school with the need to decompress. And we didn’t want to overload families who may have more than one child in school, and so more than one schedule to manage.”

His students’ days are divided into subject areas, and hours are allocated to the study of numeracy and literacy, along with a well-being hour so students can switch gears and get active, and a creative time for exploration of art and emotion. In addition, Bychuk assigned a STEM project, building a periscope, which permits cross-pollination of themes related to science, art and design.

Like many of his colleagues, Bychuk has turned to technology to facilitate learning and interaction between him and his students. A program called Flipgrid has been a game-changer.

“With Flipgrid I can do some really creative things. I post a 30-second video question every day at 9 a.m., so the students know it’s a routine. They expect it every day. They see the question, which could be anything, something like what did you do on the weekend and create their own 30-second video in response to the question. I get to react to the video they share, but the great thing is the kids get to comment on each other’s work as well. It’s fun and it keeps the kids interacting the way they would if they were in school together.”

That’s week one of class in a COVID world. So, what happens next?

“For the first five days, because we’re all getting used to a very different way to work and learn, my group focused on introducing the technology and getting into a routine; there was lots of review in the work assigned. Now we’ll move towards a more curricular approach so we’re staying on top of what needs to be covered.”

As for technology in his toolkit, Bychuk isn’t tipping his hand, but he’s hatching plans to make his classroom even more interactive and exciting. That secure foundation, though, will not be compromised.

“This is a scary situation, but there’s great potential, too. I’ve got big dreams.”

Lights, camera, learn!

When it comes to filming videos, Claire Rodger admits she’s not used to being in front of the camera.

“I’m used to being in front of a classroom,” said Rodger, who teaches math, phys-ed and health at Hugh John MacDonald School. “There have been a lot of bloopers but sometimes we leave them in there because we know if we’re laughing, they’re laughing as well.”

Rodger went from posting one video a day to her online classroom to now doing two to three a day. Although she admits it can be time consuming, videos can be a great teaching tool and help keep students engaged in learning.

“Students can take their time, they can review it at their own pleasure which is really nice,” she said, adding she tries to keep her videos short and simple. “They can also re-watch it several times if they have any questions or if they missed something and then they can do their assignment at their own pace.”

Jonathan Burnham, who also teaches math, phys-ed and health at the school, says he tries to make his videos as interesting and visual as possible.

“I’ve put dog ears on my head, just trying to be animated,” he said. “I’ve tried adding text to the videos and stuff like that and exploring different apps to add some fun to it.

“I’ll now be using it daily and finding creative ways to keep the students interested and engaged.”

Warren du Plooy, who teaches Grades 7-9 English at the school, says he’s been focused on keeping his lessons similar to how they would be doing them in the classroom.

“I’m not changing a lot just yet and I’m also trying not to dump a lot of stuff on them all at once,” he said. “I don’t want to make them feel like they’re going to be drowning in work. Many of them aren’t used to doing a ton of work from home.”

His students have also been sending him videos as well.

“With these short little video assignments, I’m trying to show them that they can still interact with each other, connect with each other, even though we’re not supposed to see each other physically.”

When it comes to distance learning, consistency is key, Rodger said.

“Posting something each day is just a reminder that we haven’t forgotten about them and that we’re still around and we want to hear from them.”

Rodger says navigating this pandemic combined with the suspension of classes is “unchartered territory” for a lot of teachers.

“Just like our students, we’re also in a state of wondering what’s going to happen,” she said. “At the end of the day we want everyone to stay safe so if keeping students at home is the best for them, then we’re all for it it’s just sort of figuring out what that looks like in terms of their education.”

Learning can be a Ka-hoot

The class suspensions have resulted in varying schedules for students. George Pearce, a Grade 7 and 8 math and science teacher at Gordon Bell High School has been having some difficulty getting all ofhis students together for a specific time slot to conduct meetings or lessons.

“It’s a tough time for everyone, especially kids. With everything that’s going on it’s hard to focus and many students are just unmotivated to do work,” he said. “It was hard enough to get them engaged in class and now I can’t even get a hold of the kids I really need to.”

He quickly realized that to encourage participation and ensure learning he had to make it fun. Luckily, he knew just what to do. Pearce’s students were already familiar with Kahoot, an online learning platform, since he had used it in the classroom many times.

Kahoot uses multiple-choice questions to boost engagement, while providing real time teacher feedback on complex concepts.

Pearce once again took on the roll of game master, this time from his home computer.

“I live stream my screen and kids watch my stream and answer the questions on their devices by selecting the corresponding button,” said Pearce. “I am able to talk to anyone participating while the questions are up and offer clarification and explanations as needed.”

Recognizing that with social distancing in effect, parents are looking for learning activities for their children, he opened it up, so anyone can join in.

“Students and parents having been having a hoot – a Kahoot to be exact, learning about things like Newton’s Laws and practicing critical thinking and problem solving,” he said.

Pearce also has a Google Hangout with all of his students.

“It is very active. There are hundreds of messages daily,” he said. “I encourage them to split off into their own groups to play online games with each other.”

One of the games frequently played in the Google Hangout is Roblox.

“I had an absolute blast playing Roblox with a group of students this evening,” he said. “It’s a silly game but it allows for great social interactions, which is what I am trying to promote.”

He is also looking into getting Minecraft Education Edition up and running for a more creative gaming approach. The educational version of Minecraft is being used by many educators around the world to teach a range of subjects, from history and chemistry to sustainability and foreign languages.

“I am hoping that from this experience, we as a community of teachers can learn strategies to flip the classroom, leading to using school not as a quiet work time but as a time to collaborate, create and learn important skills. The evening can be left for more independent work, hopefully pulling students away from mass consumption of media,” he said.

Click here to play long! It promises to be a Ka-hooting good time!

Skype keeping us connected

Today was a first for Amélie Carrier. The kindergarten teacher from l’école Précieux-Sang, a K- 8 school in the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine, conducted her first student check –in via Skype.

Carrier, like many teachers, are turning to online platforms to maintain contact and check on the progress of their students during the two-week class suspension.

“Everything is better when it can be said out loud and interpreted orally,” she said. “It’s also especially important for children to have structure right now, and part of that structure includes seeing their teacher. Having their teacher take time to talk to them, to listen to them and to remind them that we believe in them is critical.”

Carrier plans to check in with each student, 15 in total, on a weekly basis or more frequently if needed. She uses this time to assign new exercises and tasks for the coming week to ensure that her students can continue to develop their skills. She also makes a point of including parents in the conversation.

“It is equally important that parents are supported during this time, so that they feel empowered to help their children in their learning,” she said. “We go over questions the parents might have. If a parent is struggling in a certain subject area, I recommend activities to do with their child. I have access to learning resources and am familiar with the educational needs of each student.”

In addition to Skype, Carrier uses Classroom Dojo, an online tool that connects teachers with students and parents to share resources. The week before the class suspensions, she recorded several short videos focusing on the daily class routine to help parents follow a similar structure and routine at home.

For example, to help with reading, students recite “magic sounds” everyday so Carrier made a video of how this works so parents can continue at home.

She also recorded a student doing the morning message, another very important routine activity at this level.

Today on Skype, she started the morning in the same way she would have in the classroom, with the student reading the morning message.

Bonjour mes amis. Il fait chaud et la neige commence à fondre. Youpi!
Bisous, Madame Amélie

Carrier’s inaugural Skype conversation was not without a few bumps and glitches, from lost connections to pixelated images and disappearing video. She asserts that while technology is so helpful in keeping us connected at this time, it also presents one of the biggest challenges.

“Every parent and child does not have access to all the tools needed to stay connected and each child has different needs,” she said. “Not all software can make long videos for more concrete explanations which is necessary for some parents and children. I am still working out what is the best way to ensure each student is getting what they need to succeed. Nothing can replace the in classroom learning, but we are all trying our best to stay on top of things.”

She said that while students are out of the classroom, parents are key in communicating about their child’s progress.

“It’s important that we make sure that parents know that we are here to help. We’re all in this together,” she said. “When putting together resources and creating my activities for these weeks at home, I imagined that I was not working in the education sector, and I asked myself what would these parents need to be able to able to help their child succeed.”

Carrier will continue sending resources and doing Skype meetings, but is hopeful that she can get back in the classroom sooner rather than later because “learning is much more fun when we’re all together in person.”

Teacher takes science class to YouTube

Madame Waters and her assistant Félix have been busy over the last week building rockets and launching them, inflating balloons placed over milk bottles, creating chemical reactions and more all thanks to science.

“When people started pulling their kids out of school, I posted a message on Facebook asking my friends if they would be interested in me starting a YouTube channel with science experiments in French. It was an overwhelming yes,” said Meghan Waters a grade seven and eight teacher at École Varennes. “I am on mat leave so I am able to pick and choose which experiments I want to do. I feel for teachers who have the monumental task of condensing their curriculum. This is a way that I can help.”

Waters is using a book given to her by her mother, a former teacher, which has more than 500 science experiments. After choosing an experiment, Waters translates it into French and then performs the experiment, which is then posted to her YouTube channel.

“I try to pick experiments that use things around the house, or those that can be acquired easily,” she said. “I also incorporate core words when speaking so that kids just learning French will be able to follow along.”

Since the channel has been live, her videos have garnered more than 1,000 views. She is currently working on her seventh video. All videos can be viewed here .

School communities coming together

The strength of school communities is on full display now more than ever across Manitoba.

School staff have been rallying together during this difficult and uncertain time to ensure students are as prepared as they can be for distance learning due to COVID-19.

While some schools have carefully crafted take-home kits with plenty of supplies and hard copies of lessons, others have lent out laptops and other technology to ensure all of their students have equal access to online learning. Some schools have also gone the extra mile to ensure students and their families will have access to food during this time.

Michelle Jean-Paul, principal of École Templeton, says their school collected kid-friendly food and cash donations earlier this month for those who rely on meal and snack programs.

“It’s not just teachers, all school staff are jumping in to help put care packages together and go out and deliver them to families,” she said, adding other schools were cooking batches of food to send families home with last week. “It’s great to see our school communities coming together for those in need.”

Teachers are also taking this time to either explore new online teaching resources or utilize what they’ve already been using outside of the classroom. The Manitoba Teachers’ Society has asked teachers to share some of the online tools they are using.

Some of these programs in no particular order include:

Applications such as Zoom, Skype, Facebook and Instagram also give teachers the ability to keep in touch with their students via video.

Barb Makowsky, who teaches Grades 5/6 at Centennial School in Selkirk, says she’s encouraging her students to keep some sort of schedule and routine at home.

“We’re trying everything we can to get them engaged in this kind of learning,” she said. “I don’t want them to fall behind.”

Denis Gingras, who teaches both math and science at École Selkirk Junior High, says most of their teachers have their own Weebly based personal websites, which they use to share information and lessons with their students.

He said he keeps his website updated throughout the school year and it’s a great way to communicate with both students and their families. He also made sure to send his students home with paper packages of lessons with links to instructional videos. Although all of these tools are helpful, Gingras says nothing can replace being in real-time in a classroom.

“I never get through a lesson without a student asking a question or two,” said Gingras, who has been teaching for 25 years. “As the years go by, online access is going to increase … but I do have students that have no devices at all or don’t have access to Internet at home … so that limits what they can do.”

Gingras says he’s looking forward to students returning to school.

“We can’t wish this thing away but I’d like to be back to normal as soon as possible,” he said. “When you’re a teacher, you’re a performer in a way and that’s what I’m missing. I just want to get back as soon as possible.”

Jumping jacks on TikTok PhysEd class moves online

With the suspension of classes due to COVID-19, Teachers have turned to online methods to stay in touch with their students. Brendan Edie, a Grade 7 homeroom and physical education teacher from École Morden Middle School in Morden, MB decided to do just that and PE with Mr.E was born.

“Anytime you don’t have kids in the room, whether it be in a classroom or gymnasium, it can be a challenge,” said Edie. “The circumstances that we are currently in have given teachers the opportunity to showcase their creativity.”

Teaching at a middle school has given Edie some valuable insight into the trends, interests and needs of today’s middle school-aged students.  He knew that even though students would be at home, for the most part technology and social media would be relatively accessible.

Armed with this knowledge, he launched a 21-day challenge where students can follow along and complete daily physical health and well-being activities online.

“I wanted to create content that I could share with my entire school to help families generate ideas to keep students active,” he said. “It’s a fun way for students to get up and moving while at home.”

Edie acknowledges that his 21-day challenge is similar to what he has seen from many other PE teachers from around the province and points out that, “there are multiple PE teachers at my school who are all working hard at creating various content for their own classes.”

What makes Mr. Edie’s class different is that it is linked to a variety of social media platforms. His 21- day challenge can be accessed via his Twitter page @mredieteaches, and there are multiple ways each week that direct students to his YouTube channel, PE with Mr.E. Once on the YouTube channel, students have the option to workout on their own or complete activities with him – a virtual physical education class.

He has also created additional challenges to supplement the 21-day program on a platform that he is still learning about – TikTok. His TiKTok profile is @PEwithMrE.

“It’s not always a workout, sometimes there are activities like master a TikTok dance, or create an obstacle course at home,” he said. “Though I do value fitness, I think it appeals to a broader range of students when the activity changes.”

There are also live events and streams planned. He has enough curriculum prepared for the current school postponement, with a few activities on deck in the event of extension.

So far, feedback has been positive, with viewers tuning from around the world.

“I’ve received some feedback from other teachers from around the province and the world, and have kids from different places trying the challenge as well,” he said. “It’s great that kids are participating, but as teachers it’s important that we also take the time to practice self-care, and in saying so I encourage everyone to take on the 21 day challenge.”