Athens City Schools: FAME Academy’s “Field Day in a Bag”

By Jeff Mathheus
FAME Academy
Athens City Schools

The end of a normal school year at FAME Academy is an exciting time for students, teachers, and families to celebrate the hard work of an entire school year. Field Day is one of those exciting events that bring our school together and teaches our students the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, and physical activity. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 emergency, we were unable to have our annual Field Day in May.

Innovation & Creativity During a Pandemic

In April our physical education teacher, Ben Heatherly, and media specialist, Kristie Murphree suggested an idea that would make our annual field day – normally a day of outdoor activities – more personalized and meaningful for our students who were learning from home.

An area of focus for our school and all Athens City schools is the social and emotional well-being of all of our students. Coach Heatherly and Mrs. Muphree presented a plan to our administration for a “Field Day in a Bag” to supplement our traditional Field Day activities.

As a child, you always enjoyed receiving letters or packages in the mail and we wanted to do something special for our students as we would not get to celebrate with them at the end of the school year.

Equity for All

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Equity was a focus point as our team created the Field Day In Bag contents. The items and activities that were included allowed all students to participate regardless if they had an electronic device or not.

All students received a letter from Coach Heatherly about the many activities in the package, including a “choice board” created by our special area teachers that gave students options of ways they could help around the house and also give back to their community. The package also contained a jump rope, bracelets, airheads, a key chain. Coach Heatherly also enclosed a chart of physical activities that included Paper Plane Cornhole, Wind Bowling, a Milk Jug Relay, and many more activities.

A team of 10 teachers and staff members came together (using social distancing protocols) and put together 288 “Field Day In a Bag” packages for all of our students. The packages were sent out on May 13 and our students began receiving the packages the next day in the mail.

A Personalized Experience

At FAME Academy, we strive to make every child feel special every day. The COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges in how we can continue providing a personalized learning experience both socio-emotionally and academically to all of our students.

Our “Field Day In a Bag” package is one way we have addressed that need. I am very proud of our entire staff for putting the socio-emotional needs of our students first while our students have been away from school. A school isn’t defined by the physical building you are in, but by the people who are involved in creating a meaningful experience for our students and families.

Jeff Mathheus is Principal of FAME Academy at Brookhill, a K-3 fine arts academy in the Athens City School system. He has been a teacher and administrator in Alabama for 15 years. Jeff holds a BS degree in Social Science from Athens State University and a MA and Ed.S. in Instructional Leadership from the University of North Alabama. He currently serves on the Athens State University Field Experience Board for Student Teachers.