Heart Rate Monitors, Software Allow Teachers to Connect with Students to Teach Fitness Skills, Measure Results

A Douglas County (Colo.) School District administrator used her district’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title IV, Part A funding to improve and measure student wellness with heart rate training.

Beginning late in the 2017-18 school year, Healthy Schools Coordinator Laurie LaComb used funds from the district’s annual ESSA Title IV, Part A allocation to purchase sets of IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors.

Students receive continuous feedback on their physical activity by wearing the IHT ZONE monitors during their PE classes. Improved fitness, LaComb knows, brings academic benefits as well.

“One of my jobs is to promote physical activity before, during, and after school,” LaComb said. “We truly try to connect it to brain functioning and learning. This is a great way to get kids up into that moderate and vigorous level where most of the research behind the effects on brain functioning [take place]. I know [IHT’s technology] is the right program for our students. This is so natural it just it totally works.”

Measurable Benefits to Students and Teachers

LaComb constantly searches for ways to teach students to improve their health and wellness. When she discovered the IHT Spirit System®, the ability to introduce fitness technology into the curriculum fit her goals for both students and teachers. It also fit the criteria for Title IV, Part A funding:

  • Improved student wellness increases student health; 
  • Exercise at an elevated heart rate improves physical fitness while increasing academic readiness;
  • Technology to record and analyze data provides measurable results

Easy-to-implement technology proved key in LaComb’s decision to add IHT’s heart rate monitors and software.

“It’s a lifelong skill to teach kids about their heart rate,” LaComb said. “But if teachers don’t have the technology to show them what that is and what that feels like when you are in these different zones, then the kids are never going to really truly learn it.”

In addition to teaching lifelong fitness skills, students as young as first grade get an introduction into what has become everyday technology for adults.

“This technology allows teachers to really go deep into physical education and teach lifetime skills because I think like one in every two adults are walking around with some type of heart rate monitor on their wrists already,” she said.

Securing ESSA Title IV, Part A Funding

DCSD grant officer Laura Gorman helped LaComb secure the funding. While most districts require an application or a proposal that details how the equipment to be purchased will benefit students, LaComb said she received her funding by making a simple request.

“I know I’m probably an anomaly, but the process was very easy,” LaComb said.

LaComb’s credibility with Gorman and the grant office eased the process. LaComb and Gorman meet weekly and discuss programs and tools that fit the district’s healthy schools goals and how to fund them. That familiarity paid off for LaComb.

“She knows my work,” LaComb said. “She knows our program and she had to use the funding. She also knows I want more [sets of IHT heart rate monitors] and will be asking again.”

The Colorado Department of Education received $10.4 million for ESSA Title IV, Part A from the U.S. Department of Education for 2018-19, more than double its 2017-18 allocation. Early US DOE budget projections show Colorado could receive more than $11 million for 2019-20.

For the current school year, the state allocated its Title IV, Part A funding to districts based on the percentage of Title I funding each received. Douglas County received $108,000 this year.

Teacher Sees Improved Effort, Student Ownership of Health

Pioneer Elementary School PE teacher Luke Brown first learned of the ZONEs when he attended the demonstration LaComb set up. Once he saw the combination of heart rate monitors and software, he wanted to bring the technology to his students.

“Once I found all the specifics, I was even more excited about it,” Brown, a former physical therapist, said. “When I got this job and saw all of the stuff we already had as a PE program, none of it had anything where the kids can self-monitor and get that same excitement I saw with the patients in physical therapy with how things change with exercise.”

Brown used a combination of sources to purchase his set of monitors last spring. He won a grant from Groove Auto, a local business with a desire to help the local schools, and paired that funding with money raised by the school’s running club.

His students wear the monitors every day and are already learning to stay active enough to keep see the benefits of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

“They can make the correlation themselves without me having to direct them to that,” Brown said. “When we are doing an activity that is designed to be lower intensity, there are students who will notice their heart rate getting back into the blue (low) zone. Without me saying anything again, they’re doing jumping jacks or running in place or doing push-ups…anything to get their heart rate back up.”

Building Curriculum to Support Continued Expansion

As the current semester progresses, LaComb has two goals for DCPS’s use of the ZONE monitors. First, she plans to seek more ESSA funding to increase her inventory, allowing more schools to use the system next year. Second, she wants to work with the teachers who’ve had success thus far, Brown included, to create a heart rate curriculum that new users can follow.

“I just see it is a lifelong skill we need to be teaching,” LaComb said.

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