SHAPE America District Teacher of the Year Sees Students Connect with IHT ZONE Heart Rate Monitors and Data to Increase Their Motivation to Meet Physical Activity Goals and Realize Benefits
Middle and high school students in the District 49 (Colo.) Adapted Physical Education program wear IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to maximize the benefits they get from increasing their activity levels.
“They never have a bad day,” D49 Adapted PE Teacher Sarah Brockberg, the 2023 SHAPE America Central District Adapted PE Teacher of the Year, said. “They love PE.”
Brockberg’s students – ranging from 6th to 12th grade in one of Colorado’s fastest-growing school districts – have been wearing the heart rate monitors since 2018, when Brockberg came across a set at Falcon High School where a colleague already used them.
With the monitors, students get two types of feedback: instant feedback during class and a graph they can review after class to see how their heart rate changes throughout the 30 or 50-minute session. The actual heart rate information proved key, but Brockberg focused on the colors she saw on both the monitors themselves and the graph that could be printed out for each student after class:
- Blue indicates low-intensity activity or a relaxed heart rate
- Yellow indicates moderate activity or an active heart rate
- Red indicates vigorous activity or a highly elevated heart rate
“The (monitor) was very basic and my students knew colors so this helped them understand where they needed to be while monitoring their heart rate,” she said. “The simplicity and instant feedback were what drew me to purchasing and using the monitors from IHT.”
Motivating Adapted PE Students with Goals They Understand – And Work Toward
Brockberg incorporates the importance of physical activity into the goals she gives each student as she writes their Individualized Education Plans (IEP). Along with working toward state and national standards, she wants middle school students to be active – in either the yellow or red heart rate zones – for 30 minutes of a 50-minute PE class. She wants her high schoolers active 50 minutes in a 90-minute class.
She’ll help them get there, but she’s seen more and more how students are using the heart rate data to motivate themselves.
“My middle school students like the graph,” she said. “They like to see where they were (during class). They’ll even look at it during class and see that they need to pick up their effort and they’ll start moving more. My high schools are more into person-to-person talking, and the conversations are more like ‘how can you improve that?’ and they’ll give you a list of things they can do.”
Brockberg likes that students rely on the data just as much as she does. Her adapted PE population includes students with different physical and cognitive abilities, but each student is understanding and using the data in their own way.
“When we’re doing activities, we incorporate the data,” Brockberg said. “I can say, ‘Where are you guys…Are you in the yellow? Are you red? Are you in the blue? Okay, we need to work a little harder.’ They like that. Their faces light up. If I’m not telling them to look at their (monitor), they are looking at them to see where they are, to see if they need to get their heart rate higher. So just having them being conscious of their level is….”
Encouraging? Rewarding? Confirmation that the heart rate monitors are working for her program? Perhaps all the above.
“I thought that class was going to be more of me asking ‘hey guys where are you at?’ with me constantly having them check (the monitor),” Brockberg said. “It’s a new concept. But, some of them have taken it and you can see them understand, ‘oh, I’ve been in the yellow or red (zone) and I need to slow down a little bit.’ It’s that self-awareness of their own activity level.”
The feedback – and the motivation the data provides – resonates with the students. Over the 2022-23 school year, she estimates that most of her students either met or exceeded the goals in the IEP, thanks at least in part to the feedback from the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors.
“I will say probably 80% of my kids that I had used goals for have reached those goals because of the heart rate monitors,” Brockberg said.
The students may not completely understand the benefits of increasing their activity levels, but they know the heart rate monitors are a key component to enjoying class.
“It’s fun for me to see when I walk into a gym and start getting the monitors out and my computer out, all the kids that want to come over and get their (monitors on),” Brockberg said. “I don’t have to call them over. They just kind of veer over (from what they’re doing) and get their monitor. They have this routine and having that consistency and structure is success for them.”
Brockberg’s most proud of students who needed extra encouragement to participate in class but have since developed an enthusiasm for the IHT ZONE monitors after seeing what their additional physical activity has done for them. She recalled one middle school student who struggled with obesity and seldom participated in class activities. As the student slowly increased her active minutes, she noticed a bigger change.
“When we started wearing the monitors, she started working with her peers again and improved tremendously,” Brockberg recalled. “And physically, you can tell. You can see physically the leaning out she’s been doing from the activity. It’s not just about the results from the monitors, but you can see it physically and that’s the reward.”
Expanding the Way D49 Uses Its IHT ZONE Monitors
Encouraged by the results she’s gotten with her students through the 2022-23 year, Brockberg believes more of D49’s students can benefit from the IHT ZONE monitors because they have multiple uses. While she travels with her own set of 20 IHT ZONE monitors, she’d like to see the district purchase more for other teachers to use.
“If every school had a set, then the adapted PE students could compare data with their partners (students are paired up PE class) and that would be wonderful to help them begin to understand target heart rate,” she said.
She’s also seen how other schools use the IHT ZONES to help students control their emotions.
“If someone is getting upset, you can tell that because their heart rate gets higher,” Brockberg said. “I think about my students with autism. If they’re having a bad day and they are going to (have an emotional episode), you can tell that. You can see the triggers. Using them to help those students is one thing I’d really like to do.
“The sky’s the limit.”