TV Show-Style Fitness Challenge Motivates Students to Work Together, Stay in Target Heart Rate Zones
Hamilton Bicentennial Elementary (Port Jervis, N.Y.) PE students recently put their heart rate management skills on display for a special audience that included principal Jared Kahmar.
HBE students began wearing IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors at the start of the school year and recently dominated a custom-made American Ninja Warrior-style fitness challenge while learning how their hearts respond during exercise.
“The new thing we did this year was our Ninja Warrior course,” PE teacher Nicole Beam said. “We just made a continuous course where students worked on balance, jumping, different agility exercises, crawling. We even had our principal come down and participate with us. They really enjoyed it.”
Creating Fitness Warriors
Beam and colleague Jon Foley aren’t looking to create the country’s next generation of Ninja Warriors. Instead, they wanted students to experience a fun, new way to approach their December unit on heart health.
“The goal was, in a group, to successfully complete the obstacles as many times as they could while staying in their target heart rate zones,” Foley explained. “They had to jump off a trampoline and use both hands and land on a mat. I think a lot of kids liked that one. There was another one where they had to do a lot of crawling under a net. The last one was a rope that we called the Tarzan Swing.”
Students impressed the teachers in a number of ways. By the end of the unit, which included the school’s annual American Heart Association fundraiser, students:
- Proved motivated to meet and exceed goals for MVPA;
- Showed a greater sense of agility than teachers expected; and
- Reinforced the importance of teaching heart rate at elementary school.
100 Percent PE Class Participation
Beam and Foley loved the results they saw from the Ninja Warrior fitness challenge. Once they introduced the challenge, they saw fewer students find reasons not to participate. Further, they saw students working harder together to stay in their target heart rate zones and meet daily goals.
“We had 100 percent participation in every grade,” Foley said. “In an average day we might have a kid in each period who isn’t feeling good, isn’t up to par, maybe forgets his shoes. Not a single kid chose to not wear the heart rate monitor or not participate in the challenge.”
The teachers noticed students spending the bulk of each class session – Beam estimated students could spend 25 minutes of their 35-minute PE class on the course – moving and working to complete multiple circuits. Students proved extremely agile, Foley said.
“The big clarity moment for us is seeing how good kids’ balance really is,” he said. “We don’t get to see them at home or in other classes, so seeing how well they acclimated to the obstacles…they aren’t everyday obstacles. They are jumping on things, crawling under and through things, and these aren’t things they do in a regular day.”
Double the Motivation
In addition to motivation provided by their partners, students took an added measure of motivation from the ZONE wrist heart rate monitors.
“Not only are they prompted by their wrist to try and stay active, they are also staying active by doing the course with the person they are partnered with,” Foley said. “They are doing double the work to stay on task and staying in the heart rate zone.”
Because the ZONE monitors display both heart rate and color of heart rate zone, the youngest students had no difficulty meeting their goals.
“I think IHT does such a great job with having the blue, yellow and red because we are a K-6 building,” Beam said. “We can have all the students wear the monitors and understand what zone they are in just by looking down at them. It helps them know where they are.”
The Importance of Heart Rate Training
Beam and Foley are both newer teachers at HBE, but heart rate has long been a staple of their PE programs. Beam worked with the PTA to secure 48 ZONE monitors while at Port Jervis’ other elementary school – Kuhl Elementary – and Foley won a grant from the local Orange County Department of Health to provide ZONEs at all of Port Jervis’ schools. He taught at the high school before moving to HBE. It was never a question that he and Beam would work heart rate into their elementary PE curriculum.
“As physical education teachers, heart rate has to be one of the top five most important things,” Foley said. “You have sportsmanship and these other big-ticket items, but heart rate and having them understand the heart rate is one of the most important things because knowing how the body works with their stress levels is huge. Learning that at the elementary level…”
HBE Principal Jared Kahmar takes his turn on the Ninja Warrior Course.
Beam said students learning how to pace themselves during exercise remains a skill they must master to succeed with their fitness.
“Elementary school kids just want to go, go, go,” Beam said. “This helps them learn to pace themselves because that’s a hard thing to teach at the elementary level. Jon and I really focus on dedicating an entire month at the beginning of the year to cardio-respiratory endurance, talking about what it means.”
Those discussions, and practical experience gained in the Ninja Warrior Challenge, help students gain a foundation of fitness skills they can build upon as they progress through school and move into adulthood.