As published in the Quad Cities Times.

March 2, 2017


Technology worn on the wrists of teenagers is transforming traditional physical education classes at Pleasant Valley’s junior high and high school.

“When you are done, your heart rate should be in the red zone, about 200,” shouted P.E. and Wellness teacher Jason Vice, during an eighth grade P.E. class at Pleasant Valley Junior High in LeClaire last week.

Capture-qcPVJH acquired 120 IHT Zone heart rate monitors in January, the high school received 65. The units cost $35,000, most of which was covered by a grant from Scott County Regional Authority, with some assistance from Genesis Health System, according to Beth Marsoun, communications director for Pleasant Valley Community School District.

The gadgets add accountability to the teenagers’ class time, teachers said.

“During gym class, we try to be in the target zone, which is 120 and above, for 30 minutes or more. If our watch is green or red, we’re in the target zone. If it’s blue, we are out of the zone,” said student Anna Thorne of Bettendorf.

The heart rate monitors help students connect the intensity of their activity with their heart rate, and that differs for each student.

“You can get a kid to 120 on their heart rate monitor by power walking. Another kid might need to run to get that number,” Vice said.

“It’s a lot harder to break 200 than I thought,” said student Colton Nellis of LeClaire, after running the pacer test, a 20-meter timed shuttle run.

Teachers say the students like the alternative of a fitness-based unit, rather than a game-based unit.

“When I finished my pacer test I was at 203. I like this. It’s interesting,” said Sam Zelmer of Bettendorf.

It appears the heart rate monitors are motivating students to use their class time efficiently.

“The kids come in, put on monitors, and start jogging instantly rather than walking and talking to friends,” said P.E. and Wellness teacher Sophie Harrhues.

“Go grab a ball or hula hoop to stay active for the next five minutes,” Haarhues coached the students as P.E. class wound down.

When class is over, the kids dock their watches on chargers and their data uploads to a web-based program. Their data is graphed, giving them immediate feedback. Soon, students and parents will receive emails showing heart rate data so they can track progress, Vice said. Also, a portion of grading will likely be based on how much time a student keeps their heart rates in the target zone.

The students are learning that exercise makes a healthy heart.

“When we started, I had a higher resting heart rate. But with exercise, my resting heart rate has gone down. A stronger heart recovers faster,” Nellis said.

The PV School District wants to enable kids to take responsibility for their wellness, while the heart rate monitors help measure the effectiveness of their effort.

“When we can get kids into personal fitness and goals it’s great. We can all finish better than where we started,” Vice said. “Our goal is that they can write and carry out their own six-week workout program by the time they graduate high school. Whether they’re 14, 40, or 80, we want them to enjoy fitness.”

Schools in Dubuque, Oskaloosa, Grundy Center, and Marion Iowa are using similar programs.