Hampshire grad among majors in phys. ed. and kinesiology to gain skills during Covid

A collaboration with area schools and service organizations allows West Virginia University College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences students to provide physical activity for individuals with special needs. This arrangement started during the 2020 fall semester as an alternate experience for the Friday Adapted Physical Education Program, which could not be held due to the pandemic, and will continue through the 2021 spring semester

CPASS students worked with SteppingStones conducting in-person lessons and through virtual adapted classes at Mylan Park Elementary School. CPASS students created pre-recorded activities housed in a resource library for use by Monongalia County Schools.

The Physical Education and Kinesiology majors are enrolled in the PET 477 course, instructed by Andrea Taliaferro, CPASS associate professor. Taliaferro established the collaborative effort with SteppingStones, Monongalia County Schools and Active Academics.

The PEK majors partnered with Active Academics to create pre-recorded “how to” videos for making adaptations and modifications to Active Academics activities, available on their website.

“Our community and school partners helped find creative ways to provide students with opportunities to gain teaching involvement during these times. These partnerships have allowed my PEK majors to leverage valuable experience providing quality physical education and physical activity to individuals of all abilities to help prepare them for their future careers,” Taliaferro said.

Graduate students in supervisory roles

Chloe Simpson, CPASS GA and group supervisor at SteppingStones works with undergraduate PETE students who provided 50-minute PE lessons to a class of adult students with disabilities.

“Originally, I was hesitant about going back into the ‘real world’ but found that all the preparation, precautions and procedures have allowed athletes and teachers to maintain social distance while teaching and participating in physical activity, all while wearing masks,” Simpson said.

Simpson says due to the pandemic, families have experienced difficulties, especially those with family members with disabilities who depend on school and day programs for care support and skill maintenance. “For many, this period at home has caused a regression in social and motor skills. It’s an uplifting opportunity to work with and positively influence both the undergraduate students and SteppingStones participants during this challenging time,” Simpson said.

“Although I cannot see their smiles under their masks, seeing the joy in their eyes and hearing laughter as they learn, and exercise has been a highlight for me,” she added.

Maggie Roberts, lead GTA group supervisor at Mylan Park Elementary School, works with CPASS seniors who created and implemented lessons. Roberts says that the undergraduate students deliver lessons via Zoom with the help of the classroom teacher and teacher assistants. 

“The CPASS students oversee creating lessons to meet the objectives they set for their students/athletes. They assess to see where the ability levels are throughout the semester to determine growth and report those gains. They meet with OT students to work on modifications or strategies for deeper development of skills and then put all these things together to teach great lessons,” Roberts said. 

Roberts believes that CPASS students have an advantage for teaching virtually and socially distant scenarios and how to provide feedback from afar. Both settings allow for the students to be creative in their delivery of information because there is no being directly beside a student to help them better understand and perform a skill says Roberts.

“Despite what happens in the spring with student teaching settings or their careers, CPASS students will be well equipped to handle any situation that comes their way and think on their feet if something (like finicky technology) doesn’t go exactly according to plan,” she said.

According to Roberts, Adapted PE is one of the most challenging and rewarding environments to teach. 

“This is a very different format of teaching than what students and what most teachers right now are used to. However, the CPASS students are still reaching their students and athletes and providing meaningful teaching at a time that is anything but normal for all of us,” she added.

Reaching out to athletes with adapted physical education needs

Jordan Richardson was assigned to SteppingStones during the fall semester, working with adult learners with disabilities, focusing on physical wellness, healthy diets and establishing life goals to achieve through activity. 

“Our participants have been very expressive of how excited they are to get out of their houses and back into society once again,” Richardson said. “Learning new skills that are applicable for the rest of their lives has taken a back seat to being able to participate in sport and simply have fun with others while getting exercise in these trying times.”

Richardson enjoys hearing about his participants’ lives outside of the center. “Many of our participants have jobs, relationships and real-world problems and successes that we all face in our lives. Getting to be a part of their lives outside of the activity we’re doing in class is rewarding and reminds us why we strive to reach this population,” he said. 

Richardson is from Romney, home of the only Deaf and Blind School in the state of West Virginia. His career goal is to bring Adapted Physical Education back to his hometown. “The population of children and adults with disabilities is higher in my hometown than almost anywhere in the state and they deserve to have equal opportunity at a healthy lifestyle,” he said. 

Establishing critical relationships

Kaitlyn Mayle, SteppingStones recreation assistant, said, “SteppingStones has worked with CPASS professors and students to enlighten them on the SteppingStones athletes, their abilities/disabilities, strengths/weaknesses. We work together to help the students find the best way to adapt and modify their designed programming for the various activities that they plan.”

During the Covid crisis, SteppingStones was able to open its facility to allow CPASS students access to work with SteppingStones athletes so that they could fulfill their obligations. “This is a win-win situation for both entities. The CPASS students gain knowledge and skills that they will take with them through life after graduation and SteppingStones athletes receive some much-needed physical activity coming from an outside source,” Mayle said.

Mayle says that the parents of their athletes felt ‘blessed’ to have WVU CPASS students and SteppingStones athletes in a safe and healthy structured environment. According to Mayle, many of the SteppingStones athletes have said that the visits with CPASS students is their favorite part of the day.

SteppingStones parent, Kathy Rowan, likes the variety of equipment that the CPASS class brings to the facility to use with the athletes. “It offers a completely different vibe for the athletes. My daughter Kristian has enjoyed the variety of ways to learn multiple sports with different methods and modifications, each being taught by CPASS students,” Rowan said.

Alicia Hinton, Mylan Park Elementary Special Education teacher, has been involved in the adapted physical education program for 10 years. She reflects on how Covid has changed the partnership structure. “Now with COVID, we work together. The CPASS students send me their lesson. I set up the stations around my classroom and the assistants in my classroom and I facilitate the sessions while CPASS students monitor and teach from the computer,” Hinton said.

Due to Covid, many of the Mylan Park students with special needs haven’t been out of their homes. “Giving them another reason to move that is fun is great. It’s nice for them to get a sense of normalcy in such a crazy, hectic time. I also love that there is interaction between my students and others outside of our school,” Hinton said.

Hinton says that smiles communicate what words may not convey. “Students, even with limited communication, love when it’s Sports Camp day. The smile on their faces and their willingness to cooperate with them says it all,” she said.

The virtual class format was successful, according to Hinton, due to the strong bond between the school and CPASS. “The willingness and flexibility of the CPASS students has been amazing. They have taken every suggestion and ‘oops’ moment and made it seem like it was meant to be. I was honestly nervous about how my students would handle a virtual class, but they are, too. They follow the directions, answer questions, and have learned some new PE skills,” Hinton added. o

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