Physical education teachers are finding allies as they strive to motivate students to become more active outside of their classrooms. Emails sent by the IHT Spirit System immediately following a PE class session give parents a first-hand look at their child’s activity levels.
“I’ve had so many compliments from some parents saying it is so great to see what they’re doing and what their child’s activity level is,” said Misty Atnip, PE teacher at Baldwin Creek Elementary in Lander, Wy.
Last year Atnip completely redid her PE curriculum, personalizing it for students by adding the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors and Spirit System software. The results have been dynamic, she said. In the first year using the ZONEs and software:
- Students’ fitness test scores improved dramatically;
- Parents, armed with direct data about their student’s performance, became engaged with PE; and
- Atnip earned her school’s teacher of the year award for her innovative changes.
Atnip’s students wear the ZONE heart rate monitors during each PE class — twice a week for 30 minutes at a time. She wishes she had more time with students but said the ZONE monitors keep students moving, minimizing downtime, and the heart rate reports following each session reinforce the importance of movement.
Giving Parents a Window into Their Student’s Day
While Atnip’s fourth and fifth-grade students got a first-hand explanation about the reports they receive via email, parents got less of an explanation, which has prompted many to connect with the teacher to comment, and compliment her, on the new PE curriculum.
“I’ve had so many compliments from some parents,” Atnip said. “They say it is so great to see what they’re doing and their activity level.”
Enabling Parents, Students to Bond Over Exercise Habits
Like Atnip, Pioneer Elementary School (Douglas County, Col.) teacher Luke Brown’ students also wear the ZONE. He uses the Spirit System to deliver post-session emails to students and parents. In addition to showing parents if students met the daily fitness goal, the emails spark conversations about increased activity time at home.
“I’ve definitely had some parents that told me that they’ve had discussions about heart rate with [students],” Brown said. “I even had a parent that runs marathons that was really happy because [the emails] helped her talk to her daughter more about running and training. And her daughter likes running now.”
Driving Parent-PE Teacher Conversations
Some Spirit System schools use the data from the heart rate reports to factor a students’ grade – the more often they achieve their fitness goals, the higher the grade – and the reports help provide documentation about why a student received a grade. Portage Central Middle School (Portage, Mich.) PE Teacher John Dunlop said the reports have made those conversations easy for everyone to understand.
“You can show objectively who is working hard,” Dunlop said. “It is no longer a subjective thing. Now it’s done fairly.”
In the past, PE teachers graded mostly by watching students and forming their own opinions about whether the student worked hard or whether they went through the motions. With the data from the heart rate monitors, neither student, teacher, nor parent are guessing about what happened during PE class.
“What’s the old quote?” Dunlop said. “’Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.’ [W. Edwards Deming in “Out of the Crisis”] To have [data] to share with the kids and parents and to use it as a teacher, this is something that is very beneficial.”
For Atnip, the data also helps classroom teachers, who are more likely to meet with parents on conference night, explain and reinforce what students do during their PE classes.
“Often times in the past, it was kind of like ‘well, here’s your child’s grade in PE’ and [the classroom teacher] doesn’t know much more than that,” Atnip said. “But now the teachers can ask parents, ‘have you been looking at your emails that you get from the ZONEs every day that they have PE?’ They have more information to give parents. It’s kind of become a whole community effort.”
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