Mabel-Canton students get moving with Morken
By Becky Walz
Mabel-Canton PE teacher Lonnie Morken has used costumes and props in his YouTube videos to get students moving and engaged in physical activity during the pandemic. (submitted photo)

Depending on the day, Lonnie Morken is a lumberjack, a camper, poindexter, a chef or a time traveler.

In reality he’s the Mabel-Canton elementary PE teacher. Morken has come up with innovative and interesting ways to engage with his students, keeping them active during the COVID-19 pandemic since their school year was interrupted mid-March.

The planning

When students were told to remain at home beginning March 18, the staff at Mabel-Canton began to brainstorm on how to retain student engagement.

“We spend the next week (March 23-27) as staff planning our distant learning curriculum,” said Morken, who is also the Cougars’ head volleyball coach and athletic director. Early on, Morken developed the idea to record 30-minute exercise workouts in simple costumes to entertain the kids as they worked out.

“The first night I came up with the plan (March 18), I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning coming up with ideas. I originally thought of 15 costumes, but when we found out the kids were not going to return to school this year, I had to come up with more,” he said.

Morken hoped adding costumes and themes to each workout may make the pandemic experience easier, figuring the kids would get some good exercise as well as a laugh at his outfit — serving a double purpose.

“My first workout video was PE Man, but each day is a different idea and I try to stay relevant with current events if I can. For instance, I did a Spanish themed video on Cinco de Mayo,” he noted.

Behind the scenes

After putting the workouts together and gathering the costumes, Morken relied on fellow Mabel-Canton staff members, Lisa Halverson and Lana Hollar to help tape the episodes. The videos were then passed to Morken’s daughter, Sophie, to trim and edit.

The teacher of 26 years credits the fellow staffers in collecting numerous costumes for the exercise


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