Physical Education (PE) and sports at most California public schools has been sidelined this year in order to protect the health and safety of students amid the pandemic. At the same time, many families are now grappling with how to keep their kids physically active as distance learning and a statewide quarantine stretch into the new year.
At KIPP Corazón Academy in Los Angeles, Alfredo Crossman-Chavez Jr. is making sure his students get moving and stay motivated by harnessing the power of social media — posting a wide variety of homespun fitness videos tailored just for his students on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
“I’m always thinking of how I can engage my kids,” says Crossman-Chavez Jr. who is KIPP Corazón’s athletic director and PE instructor. “For kids, working out can be hard and they get exhausted very quickly. I want to make it fun but, at the same time, I want them to feel a sense of accomplishment.”
KIPP Corazón is in South Gate located southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The school's mission is to provide equity-based learning, and culturally-relevant instruction at every level — including PE.
Athletic Director Alfredo Crossman-Chavez Jr. at KIPP Corazón Academy believes equity-based, culturally-relevant learning should also apply to physical education. Note: This picture was taken before the charter school transitioned to remote learning due to COVID-19.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes,” he says. “This is my passion. This is my drive."
KIPP Corazón serves mostly low-income students from Spanish-speaking, immigrant families. Many don’t have a personal gym at home or live near a safe public space to exercise.
But Crossman-Chavez Jr. – known as Coach Chavez by students and staff – is helping kids overcome those hurdles.
His PE class is broadcast via Zoom and students tune in using their school-issued laptop and wireless connection. He also utilizes household items during PE classes (cans of food or water bottles serve as dumbbells) and encourages kids to exercise in any kind of small space (the living room, bedroom or front patio).
Much like a TV variety-show, Coach Chavez and his fellow PE teacher Dean Bhatt also invite a “guest student” every week to their PE class on Zoom and answer funny “what if” questions before competing in a quirky athletic challenge like picking up popcorn with your mouth while doing a pushup. Check out this video to hear Coach Chavez describe his unique approach!
A self-described social media fanatic, Coach Chavez wanted to do more to help students stay active and mentally positive during the long, often idle hours after remote instruction.
His first step was creating a YouTube channel called KCA Upper School P.E. where he posts Zoom-recorded PE classes and a whole host of practical, kid-friendly workout videos including high intensity interval training (HIIT), basketball drills and yoga.
“Yoga was definitely a hit which was a surprise for me because I didn’t think kids wanted to relax and slow down. But when I asked for feedback, my students said they liked feeling more relaxed, their heart rate wasn’t super high, and they felt calm going into their next class.”
His effervescent, entertaining and uber-positive personality is a perfect fit for the social media sphere – keeping kids engaged, amused and laughing. He says his biggest fear is for students to feel alone and isolated.
“I just want to be that light, that hope for students to hold onto,” says Coach Chavez. “As human beings, if we don’t see that light at the end of the tunnel, things can become very dark.”
Coach Chavez is now offering live cooking classes for his students via Instagram (IG) at @kippcorazon_athletics, which has quickly become the most popular activity among students. Since he began his live IG cooking classes, he and his students have made smoothies, veggie pizzas, and sushi.
KIPP Corazón Academy's Coach Chavez brings live cooking classes to his students on Instagram, teaching students how to make nutritional meals during the pandemic.
“Some people don’t see cooking as an essential skill, but it is,” says Coach Chavez. “We want kids to know how to cook so they don’t eat out, don’t eat fried foods, and don’t spend all their money on bad things.”
Making pupusas continues to be the crowd favorite at KIPP Corazón.
The beloved Salvadoran dish is made of thick corn tortilla and stuffed with savory filling. Many students have roots in El Salvador and help Coach Chavez along in the process.
“I’m learning too … and on the livestream, [the students] could see me struggling a little bit, so they were encouraging me as I was doing it.”
Several students have since invited Coach Chavez over to their house after the pandemic so he can watch their relatives make authentic Salvadorean pupusas from scratch. Other students continue to send him pictures of their own pupusa creations.
“I get food pictures from everyone, and that’s great because that shows me there’s a sense of pride in cooking. Kids are wanting to do it.”
As Coach Chavez looks ahead to the new year, he’s eager to offer a whole new slew of kid-inspired health and wellness classes and videos. He says it all boils down to making sure children have something to look forward to during this difficult time.
Next on his list: “Self-Care Fridays,” live on Instagram @kippcorazon_athletics.
His first self-care class offers students a quick, cheap and easy way to do facials at home.
"I want my kids to know that it might seem like things will never get back to normal. But it will get better.”
Learn more about CCSA's Equity Champion series by clicking on our past profiles of charter school educators committed to ensuring each and every student in California receives a high-quality, equitable education.
Read the full story, here.
About the Author: Ana Tintocalis, CCSA's Director of Media Relations and Research. She is a frequent contributor to the CharterNation Blog. You can contact her at email@example.com.