JEFFERSON — One of the popular traditions at East Elementary School for the past several years has been the end-of-the-year Field Day, a full day of silly and interactive outside games that get kids moving and laughing together.
With school buildings closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, in-person games were out of the question. But that didn’t mean students, staff and families couldn’t do something interactive that would bring them together across the miles.
Nick Isaakson, physical education teacher at East, pulled the virtual event together after a couple of fellow teachers expressed their disappointment that the end-of-the-year event would not be able to be held this year.
Isaakson thought otherwise. Though people could not amass in a big crowd on the school grounds, he has been seeing pretty good attendance for his live gym classes since the pandemic forced local schools to go online.
So why not extend it a little further and invite the entire school to participate in the same live games from their individual homes?
The activities can be done either inside or outside, so having a rain date won’t be necessary. And they utilize common materials that can be found in people’s homes, like a big stirring spoon, a ball of crumpled paper, outside gear for the dress-up relay, something to carry like a stuffed animal or pillow, and obstacles to jump over, like a jacket or a low stool.
Meanwhile, Isaakson’s fellow gym teachers at the other Jefferson district elementary schools — Sullivan’s Jane Vogel and West’s Jeff Schmidt — have developed similar live activity day for their students.
Thursday’s Field Day for East will be organized by grade level, with kindergarten and first-graders joining in live at 10 a.m., second- and third-graders meeting up at 11 a.m. and fourth- and fifth-graders linking at 2 p.m., all via Google Meets. As in a Zoom meeting, participants will be able to see each other as they compete, although the more people join in, the smaller the images will be.
The teachers also will be participating, and everyone will run through the stations together.
“It’s a fun way to end the year, and we didn’t want to miss out on this tradition,” Isaakson said. “It’s a big celebration of sportsmanship, teamwork, and all of the hard work students have put in throughout the year.”
The East Field Day events will include a winter gear relay, spoon relay, lay-an-egg relay, Keep-it-Up challenge, hurdle, and a shoe-flip challenge.
For the winter gear relay, participants will need a pair of gloves or mittens, a hat and a jacket, ideally oversized.
They’ll lay the gloves at one end of the room — or yard — they’re in, and the hat and jacket at the other end. Then they’ll race from end to end to don one item at a time: first one glove, then the jacket, then the other glove, then the hat. Distances will vary.
Keep-it-Up involves keeping a paper ball in the air.
Hurdles involves setting up everyday items such as a coat or pillow across the room or yard and jumping over as many as possible in a circuit for 30 seconds.
The spoon relay will involve carrying a crumpled ball of paper on a big wooden — or metal, or plastic — serving spoon across a space as many times as possible for 30 seconds.
The lay-an-egg relay involves putting a large stuffed animal or pillow between your knees and squeezing your knees to keep it in place, then jumping across the room and back for a specified amount of time without losing the pillow or animal.
Finally, the shoe flip challenge will involve flipping a shoe with your foot by inserting your foot partway inside, then tossing it. How many points you receive depends on how the shoe lands. On its side equals one point. Upright equals two points, and upside-down yields three points.
The gym teacher has been promoting the event through Facebook and in School District of Jefferson emails. Students and their family members have been invited to practice, and lots of teachers have gotten into the act by demonstrating individual events on silly videos shot from their “home offices” (or yards, as the case may be).
So if you’re out and about on Thursday and see some youngsters in their yard dashing to jump over pillows, carry paper on spoons, or don winter gear in the midst of the late-spring heat, wave and cheer them on ... it’s Virtual Field Day!