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Global Academy K-6 students and families embrace virtual fitness classes

Gold celebrating the best of GPS!

 Global Academy PE teacher Jared Ocean poses with his laptop inside his home.A few years ago, if you mentioned doing workouts online instead of at the gym, it would likely have drawn some very suspicious looks, but these days, virtual workout classes are the new normal. For Gilbert Public Schools students at Global Academy, they are part of their weekly curriculum. Jared Ocean is the physical education teacher for K-6th grade students at Global. He says the fitness experience is far different than what students might come across at an in-person class on a GPS campus.

“It’s kind of an open gym experience with a fitness schedule,” Ocean said, “They are supposed to pick at least one class a week to attend, but we have some kids who come every day.”

Ocean got his master’s degree in e-learning back in 2015. He had no idea at the time that his wealth of knowledge would become essential. He always dreamed of becoming an online teacher, but it wasn’t common at the time to find online programs for elementary students. When the opportunity to create a program at Global arose, Ocean seized it.  

“I was really excited and re-energized. I’ve never had so much job satisfaction in my life to be able to do something so special,” he said.

Global Academy second grader, Charlie, poses in front of her computer and TV with a virtual fitness destination on the screen
Ocean provides his students with a menu of fitness classes every week, so they can pick the one(s) that they enjoy the most. General physical education creates a safe space for students who don’t have a particular area of interest. Ocean does a mixture of workouts in this section, including throwing, kicking, fitness, and yoga. His fitness classes focus on flexibility, strength training, mindfulness, stretching, and HIIT workouts. His once-a-week virtual running class is the most popular with students of all ages taking part along with some Global parents. 

“It’s an idea that I came up with that I didn’t think would work, but it actually works,” he said.

The virtual running class features pre-recorded runs from all around the world, like New Zealand, London, Egypt, and Dubai. Ocean plays the videos with music and the students take off running in place. He shares brief facts during their run about each country’s culture and animals. The students are really invested, and they keep track of each run’s location using a passport that they made in their art class. Ocean also created a digital pin board, so his students can see where the destinations are located around the world. 

“If you start looking at the screen long enough, it feels like you are there,” he said, “We’ve been to like 25 countries up to this point.” 

Ocean hosts a Family Night once a month, where Global families can join for one giant PE lesson. He also does virtual fun runs where all of his students run, bike, skateboard, walk, or rollerskate at the same time with their families in their own neighborhoods. After the event, Ocean provides a certificate that families can download to celebrate their participation. He believes the level of engagement of Global students and families is proof that online education programs can foster meaningful connections.

"I think people think it's very disconnected and relationships are minimal, but what I've discovered along with kids and parents is that it's been the opposite. Our relationships with families are so much more. Every time that the students have class, we are literally invited into their home. I know pets. I know parents. We see each other all the time. At the end of class, I always have time for open conversations just to build those connections and those relationships," he said. 

This a graphic of the world map with red markers showing the countries and destinations in the virtual running class.
Over 200 students are part of Global Academy’s K-6th grade program. While a predominant number of those students resides in the East Valley, there are Global students who attend from across the Phoenix metro as well as communities throughout Arizona. The online academy provides flexibility for families that travel often, or for families with students that have special circumstances. 

“The variety of students that we serve is very diverse. It’s very different. It’s not just your neighborhood kids going to school, so that makes it really, really special,” Ocean said.

Learn more about Global Academy by contacting the school or enrolling today!


Written by Kailey Latham, Photos by Global Academy