Dance and PE struggle in their shift to distance learning

PHOTO: Dance teacher Pamela Trokanski continues to engage with her students through WebEx (Michael Leistikow).

By Lauren Lee, Staff–

As remote learning begins at Davis High, dance and physical education teachers are forced to reexamine their curriculum. These classes aren’t as well suited to make the switch to online as many other core classes. 

Pamela Trokanski teaches the courses Introduction to Dance and Intermediate/Advanced Dance as the sole dance teacher at DHS. 

“What I did was kind of streamline my goals not planning to do as much as I would have or go as deeply as I might have if we were seeing each other four days a week,” Trokanski said.

As a replacement for demonstrating different dance moves in class and practicing, Trokanski created a video demonstrating specific skills and assigned her students an activity log to encourage practicing. She plans to create a new video every week. 

“[It’s] important to explain, for a dancer, we don’t always come into a class that is different every day. A lot of times the class is the same exercise over and over again,” Trokanski said. 

Trokanski emphasizes repetition to work muscle memory. This is a component for dancing at home so students can watch one video and continue working at something specific throughout the week. 

Along with videos and logs, Trokanski is also using WebEx weekly for check-ins and for students to follow along with some of her exercises and choreography.

An issue for dance students practicing at home is space. Some students don’t have access to a large empty room to practice or stretch in. 

Sophomore Ellie Bair practices for Introduction to Dance class in her room.

“I’ve mostly been [practicing] in my room. There’s a space in between my desk and my bed and I’ve been trying to fit in there and you have to do a lot of turning and I don’t want to hit my head on a desk,” sophomore Ellie Bair said. 

To solve the problem, Trokanski arranged a smaller space with four stools where she keeps the choreography inside so that she can ensure that all the students can practice at home. 

Another issue is that especially with beginners, demonstrations are crucial. Bair is in the Introduction to Dance class and is a beginner to dancing herself. She believes the videos have been really helpful to combat this issue.

“It’s a lot harder to learn new things when we don’t have them demonstrated to us [in person] […] but I really enjoy the class so I’m willing to spend a little extra time,” Bair said. 

Sophomore May Wang is in the Intermediate/Advanced Dance class. She has found it more difficult to find motivation for practice while she’s at home. 

“I feel like I learn more in person […] There’s definitely a difference in learning in-person versus online. If you’re in person the teacher can help you with moves. It’s easier to ask for help,” Wang said.

The Intermediate/Advanced Dance class’s spring concert on April 17 was canceled but the class is working on creating a spring concert video to post online. 

According to sophomore Juliet Gee, all group pieces for the concert have been axed and most of the pieces planned for the concert were created for groups. Students have been working to rework the bulk of the show.

“We’re just trying to do our best to change what we expected the show to be like,” Gee said.

Gee believes that there is still an upside to the cancelation and new spring concert because there is more time to work on the show.

“We get to do more dances that are specific to us like I am a ballet dancer so I can focus on ballet more at home […] Also we can do things that are more specific to our level,” Gee said. 

Physical education classes have taken a more different approach as the dance classes. Julie Crawford and the other physical education teachers have been using google classroom and/or school loop to create fitness related content weekly or more frequently.

Teachers have created a daily workout calendar where students can choose one of two different exercises for each day that take 20 to 40 minutes. 

“Our goal was to encourage our students to get in at least 30 min of daily exercise, as they would be if they were in our class at school.  It was also a fun opportunity to introduce and encourage several different options for exercise and fitness,” Crawford said.

She also emphasized that not all physical education must be exercising itself and students have the chance to learn more about the value and importance of fitness beyond high school. 

Sophomore Talon Dale is in strength and conditioning and notes that he’s been exercising with pull-ups and jogging. He believes that the plan created for his class was sufficient. 

“[The workout plan] is not complicated [and] easy to do,” Dale said. 

Sophomore Jason Ma is a physical education student and has been having a more difficult time with remote learning. 

“It’s kind of inconvenient to get a good exercise because we can’t really go outside. I just don’t really like doing indoor exercises,” Ma said. 

His teacher, Dan Ariola has been using school loop announcements more for communication which Ma notes as more difficult. 

“Since all of my teachers are using Google Classroom and LoopMail and email to communicate, I sometimes forget to look on school loop announcements so I don’t always get the information I need for the week,” Ma said.

As for Independent Lifetime Sports students, they have a google classroom and are getting workouts from coaches. They can also use the daily workout calendar the physical education students use.

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