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Vernon Creates PE Winter Wonderland

Students at James H. Vernon School are stepping into a physical education “Winter Wonderland” during gym class and building skills with winter/holiday-related activities. Surrounded by colored lights, blow up decorations and giant cut-out snowflakes, students are shooting basketballs into Rudolph’s nose, sledding on scooters, spinning the dreidel at “Elf Fitness Camp”, building gingerbread houses out of hula-hoops, and so much more!

The idea came from physical education teachers Ms. Jennifer Doxee and Mr. Kevin Degnen, who have been planning to do this for years, and due to the pandemic, they finally have their moment.

“The irony of this undertaking is that it could only be created in a year when high school sports were postponed because normally this gym would be used for practices after school,” explained Ms. Doxee and Mr. Degnan. “Now this can stay intact for a couple of weeks for students to enjoy. We talked about different cultures and holidays, and focused on making it a special Winter Wonderland for the students.”

Divided into 10 small groups, students rotate to each station for a given amount of time. In accordance with health and safety precautions, students wear face coverings and hand-sanitizing stations are set up by each activity for students to use after completing each activity. All activities align with New York State Learning Standards for movement, physical fitness level, enjoyment and overall wellness, while also building cognitive and critical-thinking skills.  Challenges are slightly modified based on skill and grade level.

In an activity called “Fire Starter”, for instance, students spin the “Oyster Bay Wheel of Fortune” then use a hockey stick and ball to shoot a goal from a specific spot on the floor into a fireplace. In another called “Get the Grinch!, students use colored “snowballs” to knock down pins with “Grinches” on them. Students start at the first candy cane and move to another candy cane further back to test their skill. In another, hula hoops are used to strategically build a snowman and top it off with a top hat.

What did students think?

“It’s amazing; Our teachers worked really hard on all the decorations and activities,” said third-grade student Ava Grant. Her favorite activity was the Polar Bear Cave where move around on scooters pretending they are polar bears and are challenged to see how many times they can make it under a tunnel in the Polar Bear exhibit.

“It’s so fun; Ms. Doxee and Mr. Degnan did a great job,” added third-grader Austin Grassi.

 “I applaud Ms. Doxee and Mr. Degnan’s efforts,” said Mr. Kevin Trentowski, the district’s director of Athletics, Physical Education and Health. “This is a festive way to infuse a new level of energy and excitement into physical education classes while incorporating theme-based activities that maintain the physical and mental benefits of a traditional physical education program.”

vernon pe teachers

Vernon physical education teachers Mr. Degnan and Ms. Doxee created the Winter Wonderland. 

rudolph basketball

Students aim for Rudolph's nose in this basketball activity.


It takes teamwork to operate this pair of "skies."


Students had fun "sledding" in the Winter Wonderland.