Teacher Leesa Taylor is assigning homework to six Rockford families over the weekend: play.

Friday, Jan. 10, she sent their children home with the tools to practice what she calls “physical literacy,” giant bags with balls, jump ropes and more.

The physical education teacher calls the initiative “PE at Home.”

“I want them to go home and teach their siblings,” play with neighbors and enjoy time with their families, Taylor said. She’s encouraging kids to get out of their houses and apartments and enjoy their yards and parks.

Monday morning, the students will return the bags and tell Taylor what they did. The teacher is inviting families to post photos of the play time on Twitter, too, tagging her account @pe_spotlight.

Next Friday the bags will go home with another group of students, selected based on their attitude, academics and attendance. Taylor is looking to reward students who show respect and put forth their personal best efforts.

In the bag

Taylor splits her time between Rockford and Prospect elementary schools and said she wants students to think of PE class as “the best day of the week.”

But as Rockford Principal Chad Tipton noted, gym class is less than an hour — not much time for kids to master skills such as throwing and kicking balls.

Taylor explained that the idea for PE at Home evolved because students sometimes would ask if they could borrow equipment from the school, and she was looking for ways to support other goals at Rockford, such as improving attendance.

“She thinks outside the box,” Tipton said with appreciation, noting Taylor’s history of winning grants to improve the gym and outdoor areas at the school.

This was the first time Taylor has sought funds through the online platform DonorsChoose.org. She built a list of equipment with costs and asked for a total of $596.

When she posted it in late September 2019, friends, family and colleagues pitched in, along with strangers. The final donor to reach the goal last month was someone who had never heard of Rockford but loved the idea, Taylor said.

“I stretched the money as far as I could,” she said, explaining that she’d like to add gear over time and will need ongoing support to replace items as needed. “I would love to add a real basketball, cones to set up soccer fields,” as well as badminton equipment.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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