The physical education students at Portage Central Middle School in Portage, Mich., earned their lunch on Thursday, and everyone else’s for that matter.
According to data accumulated through the students’ use of the Interactive Health Technologies Spirit System monitors and software, Portage Central’s students reached a major milestone on May 5. According to PE teacher John Dunlop, dating back to the start of the school year, the students have burned 3 million calories during their physical education classes.
“We’re a little less than 40,000 away so it looks like tomorrow will be the big day,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “The kids are getting fired up about it. I asked each one today if they’re going to be the one to get us over 3 million.”
It turns out that Portage’s fifth-hour phys-ed class – which meets at noon – burnt the three-millionth calorie. Dunlop said there wasn’t a significant celebration at the moment, mostly because he didn’t know until he checked data after class.
“We’ll do more after we achieve it,” he said.
With the milestone reached, Dunlop pointed out that Portage Central still has another month of school. His phys-ed students have achieved much, but he’s eager to see what the final calorie count will be at the end of the year.
“I try to tell the kids that, ‘you’ve been doing all this hard work and you haven’t realized what you’ve done,’” he explained. “It’s like climbing a mountain almost. You’re to the summit, and there’s still a month of school left.”
More than the calorie count, Dunlop said the overall data about his students’ work has impressed him. IHT’s Spirit System uses heart-rate monitors to compile real-time workout data that teachers and students can see on any internet-capable screen. Dunlop said his students’ data shows what phys-ed teachers across the nation long to see. People burn calories all day long, but Portage’s students burned these 3 million calories the right way, by pushing themselves during each phys-ed class.
“The calories are one thing, but then you’re looking at percentage,” Dunlop said. “Of those 3 million calories, the group performance is at 72 percent in the [optimal heart-rate] zone for the whole year.”
Without much prodding, or direct attention on the monitors, the students have taught themselves what hard work can do for each of them, even students who don’t call phys-ed their favorite subject. In a class of 30 students, differences between students are visibly apparent. Dunlop looked at two students – one an imposing athlete and the other his polar opposite.
“I have a boy who, in my 24 years of teaching and coaching, is as athletic a kid as I’ve ever come across,” Dunlop said. “This kid’s a beast. Then there’s another boy who is about a foot-and-a-half shorter than him, and they’re in the same class doing the same things. How do you meet the needs of both of these kids when you have them [in class] at the same time? The other kid hates PE, he doesn’t really like school and he struggles a little academically.”
The answer, Dunlop learned, came in the technology. When Dunlop introduced the IHT Spirit System, a light went on inside that second student.
“I saw a complete change in his attitude, especially at the end of class when he’s downloading and looking at his data,” Dunlop said. “He said, ‘hey, I did pretty good today.’ I don’t know if that kid has ever experienced success in PE until this year.”