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Flashback to Winter School, Flashforward to online Phys Ed!

Kells students are certainly prepared for life’s challenges. Winter survival was on the agenda for Phys Ed. teacher Nicole Desmangles’ Outdoor Education class in February. Middle and High school students worked in teams to build Quinzee snow shelters in Trenholme Park.

What’s a Quinzee?
Native to Canada, a Quinzee is a snow shelter similar to an igloo but built in more southern parts of the country. Contrary to an igloo, which Inuits build with blocks of hard snow, a Quinzee is built from a large mound of softer, packed snow. Kells students learned to hollow out the large mounds while keeping safety in mind : they pushed sticks into the structure to act as thickness guides. Once complete, the Quinzee can accommodate up to three people in a seated, crouched or laying position. Its natural insulation ensures that occupants stay warm, while items like backpacks are used in the entranceway to block any wind. What better than a cozy and quiet shelter to protect against harsh winter conditions?

Ms. Desmangles plans to continue to include outdoor survival activities for her enthusiastic students to enjoy once they are back at Kells: “It is my hope that students are inspired to continue to find new ways to be active and enjoy our snowy winters.”

Student review of the Quinzee winter survival activity: “This class is lit!”

Adapting Phys Ed. classes to an e-learning environment
We asked Ms. Desmangles how she’s adapting to distance teaching: “E-learning has completely changed how I teach. My approach to PE has always been to motivate students to move their bodies and become more familiar with themselves and the world around them. I loved spending time face to face with my students in the gym. I am big on quickly correcting mistakes in movement through verbal but also physical cues! I am so used to being able to hold a hockey stick alongside a student and guiding them through a pass, or freezing the class during play to move students into a better strategic formation. Even teaching individual activities like yoga is easier when I can tap a shoulder or leg to say "Hey, move this over here!".”

“Now, my goal is to get students moving, anyway they want or can. My colleague Jamie Bolduc had our IT team upload fitness apps to student iPads. Together, we created a list of activity ideas for students to try on the apps, YouTube videos or outdoors. We ask students to complete 60 minutes of any physical activity they like and submit video recordings to us to count for class participation. I connect with my students through Google classroom, email and Zoom. I also post videos of myself with a little hello on Google Classroom for each class session and deliver content using Edpuzzles. We’ve even created HIIT yoga sessions for students and their parents on ZOOM.”

“It’s great to see students making an effort to remain active. They send me videos of their bike rides, walks, yoga and HIIT workouts. If anything, this crisis has given me the chance to see that my students are well on their way to becoming lifelong movers. For me, that’s the ultimate measure of success.”

About Ms. Desmangles
A graduate of McGill University and a Phys Ed. teacher at Kells for the past 2.5 years, Nicole Desmangles first caught the outdoor survival bug at CEGEP, where she hiked and enjoyed two-day winter survival expeditions, building shelters to keep warm and dry. When asked what she appreciates most about Kells, she answers, “I fell in love with the culture and students at Kells. I like the multicultural diversity, and enjoy the staff. We’re close knit, and my colleagues have been welcoming and helpful. Because we’re a smaller school, I get to know my students; I get a lot of one-on-one time with them and am able to build close relationships. Result? I have no discipline issues. It’s simple: Kells just feels like family.”