Across Pittsfield, students are turning to creative methods to stay busy, active

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PITTSFIELD — The need for social distancing forced a shift in mindset for students as they adjusted to learning at home. For physical education teachers, that change in gears forced them to think remotely in order promote physical activity.

"It has been very interesting to go through this shift," said Jennifer Roccabruna, who teaches physical education and health at Herberg Middle School. "It has been incredible to watch the kids shift with us as we try to keep them connected."

The physical education teachers at Herberg have worked to encourage students to be active for 60 minutes a day at least three times a week and log their activities into a journal. Not only did they teach students to notice the signs of an active heart rate as an indicator of what it means to be active, but have also looked to technology in order to share different workout videos and promote ideas to the kids.

"This has really helped us reflect on our curriculum," Roccabruna said. "This curve with technology has helped us. It will be exciting to use this to help reach kids we have not before, which helps them be independent when struggling with phys-ed."

When Kevin Codey, who also teacher physical education and health at Herberg, travels through Pittsfield, he can't help but notice his students walking, jogging, or even kayaking in order to stay active in this new normal.

"It is great to see the kids taking advantage of the nice weather," Codey said. "They've been doing a good job of staying busy. I've improved a great deal with technology and are now posting workouts and exercises kids can do without any equipment. For us, the teachers, [technology] is helping us get material to the kids."

Scrolling through the exercise logs, Roccabruna is noticing different activities that teens wouldn't focus on when trying to focus on physical fitness.

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"They're running up stairs, doing yard work and raking leaves," she explained. "You don't have to be an athlete to take care of your body, which is something teens don't really see. They're navigating through things like yoga and learning that on their own — which is pretty cool to see in the logs."

Someone who has had no issues filling their log is 13-year old Nathan Giroux or as he is known on the trails — Nasty Nate.

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"I've learned so much about what these kids are involved in outside of school," Roccabruna said. "It is so awesome that kids are doing things they wouldn't do in school."

Since the age of six, Giroux has been on a BMX bike and is riding three or four times a week.

"We always remind him to be physically active and exercise," Nate's mom, Becky Giroux, said. "His father and my husband, Matt Giroux, raced when he was younger and that his how Nate became interested."

Nate's work ethic was rewarded in a trip to the Virginia Nationals in January and is preparing to compete at the Carolina Nationals at Rock Hill BMX from June 19-21. In order to promote social distancing, USA BMX is implementing precautionary safety measures based on recommendations from the CDC, along with state county and local authorities.

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While things may look a bit different, including a limit in the amount of racers per wave, Nate, who has raced with overhaul racing for the past seven years, hasn't stopped working.

When he isn't training at Foothills BMX in Connecticut, he has a training bike he can use in the house.

"[My focus] is not to stress," Nate said. "I know I can't always win, but I am going to keep trying harder and harder."

As Nate continues to sharpen his skills on the track, students throughout Pittsfield are adjusting in order to keep their body healthy.

"Our goal is to make them aware of the fact this is the only body you get," Roccabruna said. "Take care of it."

Jake Mendel can be reached at, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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