Role reversal: 8th grader uses Spirit System data to teach class of future educators what works in P.E.

JustinOn April 11,  the students in Prof. Aaron Beighle’s education class at the University of Kentucky didn’t quite know what to expect.

But Justin Lehmkuhler, with poise beyond his 14 years, stood before the class of aspiring physical education teachers and gave them some advice. An eighth grader at Woodford County Middle School outside of Lexington, Ky., Justin spoke about a month-long study he conducted during his physical education classes using the Interactive Health Technologies Spirit System.

“It was pretty nerve-racking. They are college kids and I’m in eighth grade getting ready to teach them something,” Justin said. “I was trying to give the message of what the best components of [our] physical education class were to them, to show them the data I had collected.”

The class, it turns out, got the message, Beighle said.

“As future PE professionals it opened their eyes into what kids like and what they gravitate towards,” he explained. “That’s one of the things we really emphasize here at Kentucky, connecting with kids and helping  them find something they love to do and opening the door for them to experience that.  This was a great way to see what students like through the activity reports and then how what they like corresponds to their activity level and intensity in preforming those activities.”

The data came from Justin’s class through the use of the IHT Spirit System. Rick Carr, one of Justin’s PE teachers along with Hannah Edmondson, said students  use the Spirit System heart rate monitors extensively. Having access to the data got Justin thinking.

“That’s when it really clicked for him, ” Carr said. “Seeing all of the data the [Spirit] System can give you, It’s more than what the heart’s doing, it is also how many calories you are burning, the peak heartrate…All of the data that comes back can be tracked over time.”

Slide 1Intrigued, Justin got permission to conduct his own study and organized a four-week period where students in his PE class wore the Spirit System heart rate monitors every day doing a variety of activities. Justin hoped to provide tangible evidence of which type of game or activity produced the best workout.

When IHT developed its technology, the company  hoped that the heart rate monitoring and accompanying easy-to-use tracking software would help teachers improve students’ physical education performance. Justin’s study is more proof that the hope has become a reality.

“I used the average highest peak heart rate of each activity, the average calories burned and the average time in the heart rate zone,” he explained. “The IHT graph for each participant over the time that it was worn, was what I used to help support my findings.”

What did Justin find? Fitness-based games that Carr and Edmondson set up got students working hard. In analyzing the data, Justin showed the future teachers that activities such as “crazy cardio cones” and “coneball” got students to work the hardest. Sports that don’t seem like they’d get students’ heart rates up, such as badminton, scored surprisingly high.

“You think you can’t play badminton because it doesn’t get your heart rate up enough, but we got some tremendous heart rate feedback from badminton,” Carr said. “That justified it to our program and helped show the university students to not abandon the sports and the games for just fitness, fitness, fitness.”

Not only did Justin get a teacher-level familiarity with the Spirit system, he also got to see exactly when the students were putting in the most effort.

“The real thing Justin came out with was the effort of his fellow peers,” Carr said. “If it was something they enjoy, they put a whole lot of effort in and would see more calories burned with higher levels of physical activity. If it doesn’t excite them or they aren’t into it, the name of the activity isn’t going to get their heart rate up. I thought that was really cool. It helped me justify what we do. We teach a huge variety in our program, and that’s on purpose. We know if you’re bored, you’re not going to work, but it was great to see the data back that up.”

Carr said that Justin’s project will help him further utilize the IHT Spirit System equipment.

“We’ve had this system for a little bit and [Justin’s study] kind of rejuvenated in us that we could be using this technology even more,” he said.

Woodford County currently uses the chest strap monitors but hopes to obtain a grant that would provide funding for the Adidas Zone wrist-worn monitors that become available this summer.

“We got pretty excited about the wrist system,” Carr said. “With the wrist it appears they can get the immediate feedback [to see if they are working in their target heart rate zone].”

Beighle said it’s not simply the use of technology that speaks to the students, it’s teaching them to understand what the technology tells them that is important.

“The key is using technology in an authentic manner, not just “yeah I use technology because someone told me to use it”, but asking the question, how does this technology purposely fit into what I’m trying to accomplish in creating a quality PE program?” he said. “The IHT Spirit System provides that. It individualizes that connection to kids and it also helps us as a profession to measure the effectiveness of our efforts as teachers.”

Now that he’s seen the data, Justin hopes his classmates understood – and embraced – what the data showed and that they carry their enthusiasm to get their heart rates up doing things they love into their summer break and beyond.

“Whether they take it and use it or not is their choice,” he said. “If they use it, that’s great. That’s what I want because that will help in them in the long run in their life. If they don’t use it but know it anyway, that would be good too because that means they accepted the idea. ‘For that moment, this is actually helping me.’”

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