Fishing Up New Possibilities

Recreational Lifetime Activities, a new Choice P.E. offering, exposes students to variety of potential hobbies, interests


As it became apparent that Stevenson students would be unable to head back to campus for their fall semester, Eric Ramos, Director of Stevenson’s Physical Welfare Department, knew he had an important task at hand. He and other leaders in the department were responsible for adapting their classes to the virtual format while ensuring that students’ physical education needs were met. It was under these circumstances that Recreational Lifetime Activities — the brainchild of multiple P.E. teachers — was created.

A new alternative to the traditional strength- and cardio-based gym classes at Stevenson, Recreational Lifetime Activities, dubbed “Rec. Life,” aims to expose students to a variety of fitness-based hobbies and interests for them to potentially pursue outside of the classroom. Taking a comprehensive approach to promote a healthier, more balanced lifestyle among students in the long-term, Rec. Life encompasses a blend of creative workouts, education on health and wellbeing and an introduction to various leisurely activities.

“We really wanted to think through how we would make [Rec. Life] meaningful and purposeful for our students,” Ramos said. “A big focus for all our programming over the last few years has been drawing the link between what we’re doing inside of our classrooms and how we can draw that to the outside world.”

Although team sports such as basketball and badminton — options in Choice P.E. that have been fairly popular among students — are unable to continue in the virtual class format, Rec. Life classes continue to extend a degree of flexibility for participating students. 

Rather than focusing on the barriers that might arise through remote learning, Jane Caballero, a Rec. Life teacher at Stevenson, views teaching gym virtually as a new opportunity to provide her students with greater freedom in how they engage in physical activity. Some days contain structured exercise such as body-weight workouts and yoga; on other days, Rec. Life students are able to forgo the screen for the outdoors instead. 

“When students go outside, they can go for a walk, ride their bike, skateboard etc., and they just have to show us proof of their tracking,” Caballero said. “They have a lot of autonomy in that aspect that we wouldn’t have been able to give them in school.”

In addition to the everyday movement-based element, students end class watching videos and demonstrations of a multitude of more niche outdoor activities and skills. Just a few months into the school year, students in the class have already been able to explore fishing, frisbee golf and Spikeball with archery, snowshoeing and paddleboarding still on the agenda for the rest of first semester. 

Amidst a pandemic, Caballero believes that expanding students’ knowledge on social distancing-friendly activities such as fishing and frisbee golf can provide them with a creative opportunity to still partake in sports. Aayush Dixit ’22, a student in one of Caballero’s Rec. Life classes, echoes Caballero’s sentiment that what he has learned in Rec. Life is not only valuable, but applicable down the road. 

“I have learned a couple of new things like sports and activities that I might want to try with like my friends and family,” Dixit said. “Spikeball is something I’ve always wanted to try, and now that I know the rules to it, I might go and try once it gets warmer outside.”

Further within the holistic approach of Rec. Life is its emphasis on personal well-being, specifically with having students spending more time reflecting on various aspects of their health and wellness. In a series of videos by Alex Stoller, a personal fitness consultant and Stevenson alumnus, students are encouraged to make more conscious decisions regarding their sleep, nutrition, hydration, stress management and community.

“There’s a lot of things I’ve learned [from the series] that I was previously unaware of, like how my nutrition helps with my mental health and overall wellness,” Dixit said. “I definitely feel like now, I’m more aware and intentional about these little things I do daily.”

All in all, Caballero’s greatest hope is that her students are simply able to expand their knowledge and integrate their takeaways about physical activity and health outside of the classroom into their personal lifestyles. It’s this sentiment that made her pleasantly surprised when she found out that some of her students had been so enthusiastic about the finishing unit in her class that they, albeit against Stevenson rules, tried it out for themselves at the school’s front pond. 

In an unexpected twist stemming from their unsuccessful attempt, the students were inspired to work to create their own recreational fishing club. With Caballero’s support, the club’s proposal process was fast-tracked and approved. 

“The fact that we now have a Recreational Fishing Club, separate from the competitive Bass Fishing Team, that came out of Rec. Life, I find that a huge, huge gain,” Caballero said. “It’s a testament that students are really encouraged by what they learn in this class.”