PE Class Connects Fitness to Social-Emotional Wellness Management
Peers Honor Hamburg Area High School’s Donine Kelly as a ‘Visionary Leader’ Among PE Teachers For Focus on Both Physical, Emotional Wellness
Two years ago, Hamburg Area (Penn.) High School’s Donine Kelly changed the emphasis of her physical education curriculum from sports to fitness and wellness. Instead of teaching students how to play specific games, her curriculum, honored recently with regional awards, focuses on the tools students need to properly manage their overall wellness, placing the same importance on the social wellness as physical.
“Our goal is to not only improve their fitness levels, but also improve their overall wellness,” Kelly said. “We have moved away from the traditional, old school, team-based sports model and moved towards a more lifetime, fitness-based model that really addresses all of the spheres of wellness — mental, emotional, social, physical and spiritual.”
In May, the Lancaster Lebanon Berks Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of Health and Physical Education Recreation and Dance presented Kelly with two awards: the Arnold Fink Innovation Award, which recognizes “a visionary leader in health and physical education,” and the High School Teacher of the Year.
Kelly’s health and PE program, modeled after a 21st century wellness program, includes time for students both in a health classroom and in the gym or outside utilizing field space to work on physical fitness.
Heart Rate Focused Fitness
Kelly’s been a proponent of heart rate technology for the last 10 years. Last year she swapped her former heart rate monitors for IHT Zone wrist heart rate monitors and saw student engagement soar.
“We switched to IHT last year,” she said. “The ease of use has allowed us to utilize them daily.”
For every PE workout, Kelly gives students a goal to spend a set amount of time exercising at an elevated heart rate through moderate to vigorous physical activity. Motivated by the immediate feedback found on their wrists, Kelly said, students work harder than they have in the past to meet her standards.
“Students are much more motivated and tuned into their performance levels for the day,” she said. “Getting immediate feedback at the end of the period is also a huge plus. They can’t wait to see if they met their goal for the day.”
Kelly works with 750 students who rotate through the entire wellness management program three times each school year. In analyzing student heart rate data with the IHT Spirit System Assessment Measures software, students:
- wear the Zone monitors for 1,400 minutes each
- exercise in or above their target heart rate goal 60 percent of their class time
“We want to create awareness and have them leave us with a ‘toolbox’ of knowledge and plans on how they will address each sphere of wellness,” Kelly said.
Comprehensive Wellness Management Program Sparks Dramatic Nutrition, Fitness Improvements
While the heart rate monitors help push students to improve their physical fitness, Kelly’s work with students through health classes focuses on the other key elements of her wellness program. When students put both spheres of knowledge together, Kelly said, the changes can be powerful.
“I have a junior boy this year who is morbidly obese,” Kelly said. “As we cycled through the fitness and nutrition segments of our program, a light went off for him. He not only recognized his need to make changes in his life, he has committed to making changes.”
Kelly meets with the student on weekly basis. She reinforces the lessons she’s covered in class while he puts those lessons into practice. Based on the nutrition lessons, the student swapped out his preferred sodas for water and began reducing the portions at his meals while adding vegetables and whole grains. Motivated to increase his physical fitness, he began adding exercise and has stuck with it.
“This boy has lost 35 pounds in 3 months, along with a few inches [on his waist],” Kelly said. “His clothes fit better and has reported feeling more energetic and feeling happier. I’m super excited for him and hope that he stays committed to his recent lifestyle changes.”
This type of nutritional progress and student growth and understanding can also be tracked and correlated with the Spirit System software.
Rewarding Students With New Physical Education Experiences
Kelly’s new wellness management program has become a rallying point for the community. Along with her campus leadership, Hamburg area business and community leaders rallied around the new program. Some businesses have supplemented her program with resources and sponsored activities, and school leadership encouraged Kelly to explore ways to introduce students to different activities that could develop into lifetime activities.
As a result, Kelly organized and took her senior students off campus for a special field trip.
“The administration challenged me to find a way to utilize the natural resources in our community, such as our lakes and mountains, to expose kids to non-traditional PE activities, such as kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking,” Kelly said.
Her “Wellness Day at the Lake” field trip included paddleboarding, hiking and as well as a nutritional break where students teamed up to make healthy snacks.
“It turned out to be an amazing day and an eye-opening day for many of our students,” Kelly said.
After her first year using the IHT Zone heart rate monitors and IHT Spirit System software, Kelly plans to dive deeper into her students’ heart rate data to further boost the fitness element of her wellness program.