PE students at Scripps Middle School (Lake Orion, Mich.) know which activities get them working the hardest.
Based on data she gets from the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors her students wear during class, teacher Kim McCool agrees with her students. When her classes include their favorite activities, more than 98 percent of her students meet their session goal for minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. On mandatory fitness assessments, students don’t meet that near-perfect threshold but aren’t far off.
“I would say that 95 percent of the time, they are hitting their goals,” McCool said of her students’ improved performance.
McCool’s transformed her curriculum to include more of the activities her students connect with. She’s replaced team sports with activities students can do on their own or in groups. Based on their both their engagement level and the effort displayed in the students’ Spirit System heart rate reports, she’s created an unofficial ranking of the activities that best motivate her students to achieve their daily goals.
The key component of her students’ favorite activities: challenging activities they can enjoy outside of class.
“I try to do lifetime activities: rollerblading, cross country skiing, tennis, swimming…all those activities to keep their heart rates up so that they can be active individuals,” McCool said. “Using heart rate monitors helps them gauge how hard they’re going.”
Students use their ZONE monitors to make sure they get their heart rates into the target zone and stay there. “They’re trying to keep it in the yellow and keep it there,” she said. Primarily an outdoor unit, students enjoy both the fitness and social elements of riding bikes in groups.
When the weather turned colder, McCool turned to rollerblading as an alternative to tried-and-true running. “We get a lot of snow here in Michigan and kids hate running,” she said. “I needed something to do indoors to get their heart rates up. Once they learn how to rollerblade, they are more focused on motor skills and balancing and rhythm.”
Students see swimming as a treat unit and respond accordingly. “We only go swimming about once each quarter, but it’s something that really gets their heart rates up,” McCool said. Students don’t wear their ZONE monitors in the pool; they calculate heart rate manually during this popular activity.
Challenged to create an activity that keeps their heart rates up, McCool’s students created their own version of Spikeball. The teacher showcased her students’ creation in a video, crediting them for taking the lead. “So their heart rate could stay high, they created their own little rules,” she said. “It was really cool.”
— Ms. McCool (@ScrippsPE) January 18, 2019
Strength and Flexibility Training
In addition to working on their cardiovascular fitness, McCool’s students also value their muscular fitness and flexibility. “Strength training, yoga and Pilates are very popular,” McCool said. “They are learning how to take care of their body. It’s not necessarily a high heart rate, but they love learning about strength training to get their bodies fit.”
The fitness focus has paid off. McCool sees the results when she conducts the three main assessments her Lake Orion school district requires: mile run, plank and push-up. Students score well on each assessment — but one stands out.
“For most students, they improve their mile by 1-2 minutes,” McCool said. “Before most of them come to PE with me, they aren’t moving at all. Now, they’re moving five days a week. It’s absolutely overwhelming. And then they say it feels good. They like it.”
Over the two years that she’s used the ZONE monitors, McCool’s seen students more interested in fitness-based activities than learning team sports. While she doesn’t spend a lot of time working on team sport skills, she makes sure she spends enough time so students develop skills and knowledge that will help them socially.
“I try to stay away from some team sports, but the team sports are based on being familiar with things that are such a huge part of our society,” McCool said. “You’re going to go to a party one time when football’s on and you should have a basic idea of what’s going on. We have a football unit because it’s a part of society. It’s not because I want them to learn to be expert football players.”
While she’s not trying to create expert football players, McCool does want to create fitness experts who understand the value of exercise. She wants students to continue exercising away from her classroom, and connecting each with a favorite activity is a starting point.
“I asked some students what they do at home, and they said, ‘well, we don’t,’” she said. “We’ve got to find something that they’ll do. They’ve got to become active individuals.”