By focusing on activities that promote lifetime fitness, Scripps Middle School’s Kim McCool created new levels of excitement and achievement among her PE students. Now she hopes to extend that motivation beyond school hours.
McCool’s students wear the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors during class, and the teacher continually sees student engagement soar. But when she asked her students how they remain active away from class, few had answers that made the teacher smile.
“They don’t move,” she said. “I asked some students: What do you do for fun at home exercise-wise? They say ‘I don’t.’”
Requiring Physical Activity Away From School
To begin getting students in the habit of exercising on their own time, McCool started requiring that they document a portion of an at-home session at least once each week.
“I require that the exercise for at least 10 minutes at home and that they record or capture the last minute of that workout for me,” she said. “Each student has a goal that they want to improve on during the semester and they have to show me that they are working toward that at home.”
Students use an app to provide McCool with the data she’s requiring. More than simply exercising because it’s an assignment, McCool wants to see students start to embrace exercising at home for the long-term benefits. She reinforces the lessons with heart rate training in class.
“So they’re documenting their movement at home as well and then (manually measuring) their heart rate at home and teaching them in a backwards fashion,” McCool said.
As students increase their activity levels both at home and at school, where 98 percent of McCool’s students meet the district’s fitness thresholds, the teacher uses heart rate monitors to reinforce essential fitness skills.
“It’s lifetime fitness and lifetime movement and then using heart rate monitors helps them gauge how hard they’re going,” she said. “I try to do lifetime activities: rollerblading, cross country skiing, tennis, swimming…all those activities to keep their heart rates up so that they can be active individuals.”
Top Activities Motivate Students to Improve Fitness Test Results
McCool conducts mandatory assessments several times during the year. Lake Orion Schools don’t use the standard Presidential Youth Fitness Program tests, more commonly referred to as FitnessGram, but the tests are similar. McCool assesses students on:
- Mile run test
- Plank test
- Push-up test
To get students in top shape for the testing, McCool features a different theme each day of the week. Students focus on cardiovascular fitness on Mondays. Tuesdays and Thursdays feature strength training. On Wednesday students concentrate on flexibility with yoga and pilates. Fridays become fun days where students have some freedom to choose how they want to reach their target heart rate zones.
During class, students use the ZONE monitors to reinforce the effort required to improve their fitness levels, and verify that they are working appropriately regardless of how it looks to others, McCool included. She expects the individual reinforcement will push students past prior frustrations that come with not running as fast as classmates or doing as many pushups.
“It’s kind of a perpetuating problem, right?” she said. “They don’t feel good about their fitness, so they don’t try very hard because they don’t want to be frustrated. That’s been the biggest revelation. They are really working hard. They are learning how to take care of their body.”
McCool’s strategy is working. Her assessments show that 98 percent of her students meet or exceed the school’s fitness standards. McCool wants students to continue to work on their fitness throughout the summer, making it a routine part of every day.
“Hopefully what they have learned using the heart rate monitors will inspire them, plus their parents, because they’re getting it from somewhere to be active individuals,” McCool said. “Now the students see what they’re doing in terms of exercise and how it relates to different cardio movement.”
The key will be putting that realization into active use.
“We’ve got to find something (to get students active at home),” she said. “So the more you exercise, you know, the better you will feel quicker and the better you will feel overall after you’re done with your movement.”