Wearing IHT ZONE Heart Rate Monitors Details How PE Class Has Changed for the Better
Hands-on experience with the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors lets parents see exactly how physical education’s modern approach enables students to focus on their physical, mental, and emotional health.
“Our program is not your parents’ or grandparents’ PE program,” Pleasant Valley (Iowa) Junior High School PE Teacher Caitlin Schoville said. “When we talk about the benefits of PE, it’s not just the physical benefits. Students tell us what they are seeing. The activity improves their sleep quality and their problem-solving skills.”
The teachers’ approach includes a new twist on parent night. Instead of sit-down meetings with parents who want to learn more about their student’s PE class, Schoville and colleagues Sophie Haarhues and Maddie Reynolds give parents a first-hand look at their students’ PE class experience.
“This is something we started a few years ago,” Schoville said. “The parent comes with their student and the student walks them through the entire thing, from putting on the heart rate monitor to choosing the activity, all the way through checking the monitor back in at the end.”
Forty parents came out for the event. Once the students helped their parents pick up an IHT ZONE monitor, the teachers led a quick warm-up session focused on cardiovascular endurance and the students took over from there.
Parents and students played games including Spikeball and Tchoukball, a variation of team handball, as well as speedball, a passing game that focuses on movement. After the hour-long evening session, parents returned the heart rate monitors and got to see their heart rate throughout the workouts.
Haarhues said several parents told her they wished they’d had heart rate monitors when they were students.
“PE seems more fun, informative and individualized,” parents told Haarhues.
“Parents thought it was a lot different from the type of program that they went through,” Reynolds said. “It was very cool for them to see the feedback (from the heart rate monitors). I think the parents also enjoyed working out with their students.”
Embracing Heart Rate Technology in PE
Since the 2017-18 school year, Schoville and Haarhues’ seventh and eighth-grade students used the monitors consistently until the pandemic closed schools in March 2020. After beginning the 2020-21 school year in a hybrid set-up, students returned to campus in Feb. 2021. At that point, the staff opted not to use the heart rate monitors until the 2021-22 school year.
“That makes this year very different,” Schoville said. “We are a seventh and eighth grade campus, and this year has been brand new for everyone. It’s been fun to push the reset button on our program, and introducing the heart rate monitors again has given us a lot of student buy-in.”
The teachers said students are drawn to the IHT ZONE monitors for several reasons:
- While many have their own personal watches that measure heart rate, the IHT ZONE is school-specific;
- Students understand the IHT ZONE individualizes assessment for each of them; and
- Students learn to measure their own effort levels accurately with real-time and post-session feedback
“Everyone has some type of technology already, so the IHT heart rate monitors allow students to understand the heart rate zones they need to be in and the benefits of each zone,” Haarhues said. “Now they know what we expect and they are working harder.”
Personalizing Learning for Each Student
Though this is the first time these PVJHS students have used the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors in their PE class, they quickly embraced the concept that they aren’t being compared to classmates. That’s been a key element to motivate students to do their best.
“The students know the heart rate monitor individualizes PE for them,” Schoville said. “They aren’t being compared to the other kids. Wherever you are with your fitness, you are competing with yourself to get into the target zones.”
The student understanding – and corresponding self-motivation – has been key for both students and teachers. Throughout last year, teachers felt they had returned to a world they’ve worked hard to get beyond – subjectively assessing student performance, whether students were participating over a video connection or in person.
“We had to go back to the old PE where you judge effort by whatever you think you see,” Haarhues said. “It became a guessing game.”
“Accountability was hard last year,” Schoville said. “You can observe students on video, but you’re still trying to interpret it. It was a challenge across all of education but surely in PE.”
Being able to use the heart rate monitors has made assessment easier for each teacher. Data from each student’s session is stored in the teacher’s Spirit System for review. The data also helps students correlate how they feel while exercising with how hard they are actually working.
“Kids think they are working harder than they are,” Reynolds said. “They need to see that’s not always the case. This shows them. They see their heart rate and then they start to see how hard they are really working.”
“The perception is tough to overcome,” she said. “They’ll go to a three-hour basketball practice and tell us they worked hard the whole time, but we ask them to think about it. Are you really working very hard the whole time? It was eye-opening. ‘Oh, when I’m practicing my free throws, my heart rate isn’t going up.’ They learn how to tie the activity to their cardio fitness.”
Working to Improve Student Fitness and Mental Health
When the school year began, Schoville, Haarhues and Reynolds saw the same things as teachers across the country.
“Cardiovascular fitness has definitely dropped,” Schoville said. During preliminary fitness testing, students reached moderate and vigorous heart rate levels much earlier than students have in previous years. That tells the teachers students have not been as active leading into the school year.
But the back-to-school picture isn’t dire.
“When students came back, we noticed that they were very excited to be back (on campus) and working together, participating in groups,” Schoville said. “They have a much better appreciation for school and were happy to see things start to get back to normal.”
Despite longtime perceptions that PE is a subject that can be sacrificed for other needs, the teachers continue to show students, their colleagues, and parents how their program can help students throughout the entire school day. The physical, emotional, and social benefits to fitness are linked.
“What cardio does is help you become a strong and healthy individual, and not just physically, but mentally and socially as well,” Haarhues said.
They structure their PE program around activities they know will maximize student participation rather than the traditional team sports because they understand how activity contributes to other aspects of overall health and wellness.
“This is new and improved PE,” Haarhues said. “There’s a shift in the importance of PE now with so much technology out there and kids spending so much time sitting down. The exercise also allows us to focus on mental health. We get to show everyone how beneficial PE is for students.”
For the teachers, though, it still starts with getting students to understand all of the values of establishing a fitness foundation based in cardiovascular health. The IHT ZONE heart rate monitors show students exactly what the teachers hope they understand.
“The learning process has been great…why is PE important?” Schoville said. “You can talk all you want about heart health, but when you’re talking to 11, 12, 13-year-old kids, they need to see it. They need to know what hard work needs to look like.”