Alliance For a Healthier Generation honors 59 IDEA Campuses for Program that Includes IHT ZONE Heart Rate Monitors

IDEA Public Schools recently won national recognition for its campaign to keep students healthy, which includes a district-wide curriculum using the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitor and Spirit System assessment software.

The Alliance for Healthier Generation’s 2020 list of America’s Healthiest Schools includes 59 of IDEA’s academy and college prep campuses. The list recognizes schools for their work prioritizing nutrition, physical activity, and strong wellness policies.

“We are ecstatic at the recognition,” Eva Rodriguez, manager of the IDEA Healthy Kids Here program, said.

Eight of IDEA’s Texas-based campuses received the alliance’s Silver Award, including both the academy and college prep campuses at IDEA Achieve, IDEA Burke, and IDEA Kyle. Overall, the Alliance recognized 136 Texas schools and 518 schools nationally. IDEA’s awards make up 43% of the Texas schools honored and 11% of the national total.

Shining Light on a Healthy Environment

To win the Alliance’s Silver Award, a school must provide students with at least 90 minutes of PE per week, host family and student engagement events, and put on programs that focus on nutrition alongside fitness, wellness, and health. IDEA meets all of those criteria. 

In a normal year, IDEA students tryto achieve 1,200 minutes of time exercising at a moderate-to-vigorous level – “time in the zone,” IDEA Director of Athletics and PE Eren Kirksey calls it. 

The IHT ZONE monitor gives students real-time feedback that helps them manage their effort and create healthy exercise habits. When students aren’t exerting much energy, the heart rate monitor turns blue. As students pick up the intensity and get into the moderate and vigorous heart rate zones, it turns yellow and then red.

“This really helps students associate their feeling to their effort,” Rodriguez said. “How do they feel when they are in the zone? ‘This makes me feel good.’ That connection – I feel good when I do this type of exercise – is what we want to instill in kids. We want to create healthy habits at an early age.”

IDEA operates on a quarters system as opposed to a semester system. Each student strives to reach a minimum of 300 minutes of time in the zone per quarter. It doesn’t include the time classroom teachers are encouraged to give students to be active as periodic brain breaks, but that’s important too.

Maintaining Focus In New Circumstances

With the 2020-21 school year beginning remotely across much of IDEA’s network, Kirksey realizes the wellness program will require some tweaking. He’s adamant, though, that students will continue to use the technology that’s served them well for three years when on-campus learning returns.

“We do not want to pump the brakes here,” he said. “We will have kids coming back to school and we are planning for them to use the heart rate monitors safely.”

Instead of rotating each teacher’s set of ZONE monitors through multiple classes of students on a given day, each class will get to keep heart rate monitors for a few weeks. Working with teachers, Kirksey developed a plan where students will wear the ZONE monitors all day to get 45 minutes of exercise in the target heart rate zone each week.

“They may not have their PE class but once every three days,” Kirksey said. “We hope we can get them 45 minutes of time in the zone per week.”

When students in a class achieve 300 minutes of time in the target heart rate zone – Kirskey hopes that happens in 3-4 weeks -- he’ll collect the monitors, clean them thoroughly and have teachers give them to the next set of classes.

“We can do it safely,” Rodriguez said.

Kirksey points to two major benefits he sees from students wearing the ZONE to guide their workouts: 

“When they see where they are, they can push themselves,” Kirksey said. “It also motivates them to work well together, to encourage classmates who are in the zone or who need to get in the zone. They support each other. The kids own the culture.”

Teachers benefit from the technology, too. IDEA measures its students’ success using data. How many students meet their goals for time in zone? How many teachers have entire classes that qualify for the healthy fitness honor roll? Like students, teacher performance is assessed, so the motivation to help students succeed remains high.

“This technology gives us a way from the top down to see how many students have earned that honor roll,” Kirksey said. “The teachers are motivated to get more students onto that honor roll. Everyone plays their role. We make this a priority.”

Prioritizing Emotional Wellness Using Heart Rate Monitors

When students start wearing the heart rate monitors for the entire time they are on campus, Kirksey believes the data can help identify other student wellness concerns. The last six months have been difficult, and students may be dealing with an emotional trauma that manifests itself through an elevated heart rate.

“We know students deal with anxiety, and COVID has made it even worse,” he said. “If students are experiencing anxiety, we’ll see it through their heart rate.”

The PE teachers manage the ZONE monitors, so Kirksey hopes that PE and academic teachers will collaborate when they see a student struggling with anxiety or other fears. 

“The PE teachers can help teachers in other subjects identify what an anxiety trigger is for a student because they’ll be able to see it on the heart rate chart,” he said. “It will allow us to dig deeper and we might be able to uncover something that the student didn’t know about. We can be a resource and use the data to capture what’s going on.”

“Everyone plays a role,” Kirksey said. “We are helping students be stewards of their own fitness.”

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    IDEA Public Schools Earns National Recognition for Wellness Program Partnering with IHT
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    IDEA Public Schools Earns National Recognition for Wellness Program Partnering with IHT
    Alliance For a Healthier Generation Honors 59 IDEA Campuses for Program that Includes IHT ZONE Heart Rate Monitors.
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