P.L.A.Y. Initiative Provides Positive Impact for 3,200 Students with Goal to Reach 10,000 Next Year
Dallas ISD, one of the largest Texas school districts, is expanding after school activities using IHT Assessments and IHT ZONE heart rate monitors in an initiative that could ultimately serve as many as 10,000 students.
“It’s a no-brainer to use the heart rate monitors in P.L.A.Y.,” Project Manager Lance Johanson said.
Dallas Independent School District launched its P.L.A.Y. Initiative – Practice Leagues for Active Youth -- for the 2022-23 school year to give students after-school opportunities to learn new sports. The co-curricular initiative currently serves students in grades 4-6 at 103 different campuses and could grow extensively in the 2023-24 school year.
“This year we’re serving about 3,200 students,” Johanson said. “As we pivot next year, we will be able to reach close to 10,000 students and advance our equity initiatives. This change will provide us with the opportunity to serve a broader and more diverse student population, helping us to create a more equitable and inclusive learning environment for all.”
Presenting Students with More Options for Physical Activity
At the participating elementary school locations, students have the freedom to expand on some of the general fitness and sport-specific skills they develop during their physical education classes by trying new sports.
“After school, the students involved in this program have a chance to extend, enhance and enrich that learning by learning new skills and playing small, fun games with each other,” Johanson explained.
P.L.A.Y. introduces students to sports that they don’t usually have access to through school-based athletics programs. Students play Futsal, pickleball, field hockey and lacrosse along with more traditional offerings including baseball, soccer and basketball.
Johanson said P.L.A.Y. aligns with the district’s University Interscholastic League (UIL) sports. Students can’t play UIL sports for their schools until they reach the 7th grade. By learning athletic skills that transfer easily between the non-traditional and traditional, students will be ready for school-based team sports when they get to 7th grade.
Johanson also wants students to get more much-needed physical activity and build on some of the social skills that they didn’t develop when COVID forced many schools to shift from in-person to remote learning.
“The program is all about play, regardless of a student’s athletic ability,” Johanson said. “It’s a way to improve self-confidence, self-esteem and social skills, and a lot of those skills were lost when kids weren’t in school.”
Early feedback from students, parents, teachers and principals at participating schools has been overwhelmingly positive.
Johanson got the following feedback from a teacher at LL Hotchkiss Elementary:
“Our P.L.A.Y. students are growing their leadership skills by leading activities and being responsible for their own group of students. Our students work together regardless of race, age, grade or gender. I cannot wait to see our students’ growth by the end of the academic year.”
Another teacher said students consider P.L.A.Y. the highlight of their week.
“I have been able to see the joy in the kids experiencing new activities,” Phillip Pacheco, the PE teacher at Anne Frank Elementary, said.
Two of his students have really excelled. Pacheco said:
“Lance exemplifies the target student for this program because he would not necessarily be given the opportunities to participate in the sports offered. He is not your typical athlete; however, he has proven to be a champion and gives 100% every time. Jaqueline is very attentive to every detail of each activity. She has a great attitude and encourages students around her even if she is not successful the first time around. They are brother and sister. Their father told me that his kids have a blast in P.L.A.Y. he mentioned that he has seen their confidence grow. He appreciates the program making them feel like a ‘million bucks!’”
Expanding P.L.A.Y. with IHT’s Heart Rate Technology and Reporting
IHT’s heart rate technology is already embedded in Dallas ISD’s PE program. Across the district, teachers use the assessment software several ways:
- To collect fitness test results and compile the necessary reports for the state-mandated Physical Fitness Assessment Initiative (PFAI)
- To track attendance for P.L.A.Y. participants
- To create health assessments for P.L.A.Y. participants
The familiarity with the software during daily PE classes allows teachers to easily incorporate it into the P.L.A.Y. program.
“We want to introduce some benchmarks – what the IHT software refers to as assessments – starting with BMI (body mass index) or weight and then compare it to the end of the PLAY year,” he said. “We want to see if the program has made a positive impact on those factors.”
The IHT software includes assessments for both BMI and weight. Teachers can easily create the assessment and then enter the data at the end of the year. They can then create a report detailing student growth.
Along with licenses to IHT’s assessment software, Dallas ISD has its inventory of IHT ZONE heart rate monitors. With PE teachers facilitating the after school P.L.A.Y. programs, students will get more time wearing the heart rate monitors to work on their physical fitness along with the skills specific to the new sports they are learning.
The IHT ZONE monitor shows students when their heart rate enters each level:
- The IHT ZONE turns yellow when students reach a moderate exertion level
- The IHT ZONE turns red when students reach a vigorous exertion level
Following each session wearing the IHT ZONES, students and their parents receive an email summarizing their heart rate activity, and the data automatically uploads into the teacher’s IHT Spirit account. Johanson is eager to employ the heart rate monitors because the data they collect has value for both
As the program grows and both Johanson and the teachers assess the data that gets collected, the 2023-24 goal is to connect students’ progress in PE classroom and P.L.A.Y. with classroom achievement. IHT’s software allows Johanson to create assessments that would capture key metrics and deliver a data-based look at that link.
"We want to broaden the scope beyond just physical fitness and connect the program to academic success and overall well-being," Johanson said. "Our goal is to help students develop not only their physical abilities but also critical life skills that will set them up for success in all areas of their lives."
Having objective data that details student growth will help the district enhance both the P.L.A.Y. and PE programs as it moves forward.
“It comes down to being able to collect meaningful, but also accurate data,” Johanson said, “because that's what we'll use to drive all future decisions.”