Simon Youth Coast High School Academy (Calif.) teacher Darla Merrill uses the IHT Spirit mobile app to revolutionize the way she runs her PE program.

Many of Merrill’s students come to class just once a week as part of an independent study curriculum, but the teacher requires students to exercise on their own as well as during her class. To remain accountable to Merrill’s assignments and coaching, students use the IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitor, powered by the IHT Spirit Mobile App.

Administrators honor Darla Merrill (right) with the 2018 Huntington Beach Union High School District teacher of the year award. (Photo from HBUSD Facebook)

“It’s really been a large paradigm shift because students haven’t up until this point had to be accountable for physical education,” Merrill said.

Adding Accountability to Motivate Students

In the past, students simply brought in a signed piece of paper affirming that they exercised on their own time. By providing each student with a ZONE monitor and enabling them to activate the monitor and connect to her assignments through the app, Merrill’s changed the game.

Prior to integrating the new tools into her curriculum, Merrill had more questions than answers about how students exercised away from her class.

“How did they walk?” she said. “Did they get the heart rate up? What exercises did they do? So there really was no one accountability for them or teaching them about working in the moderate to vigorous activity zone.”

Now, students are connected to Merrill’s classroom through the IHT Spirit System, where she’s created different activities that students can select from their phones through the Spirit mobile app. When students complete their exercise, Merrill receives a report that details the key elements of the student’s session:

Emphasizing the Value of Moderate to Vigorous Activity

Merrill explains to her students that improved physical fitness begins with how their heart functions. The stronger the heart, the more easily oxygenated blood flows through the body. The stronger the heart, the stronger the rest of the body as well.

“They are beginning to understand the difference between your heart rate and how it affects all of your health because all of our organs and all of our cells need oxygen and the only way we get it is by the heart pumping blood there,” Merrill said. “Our number one organ is our heart muscle, so we really focus on talking to them about that.”

During their weekly in-class meetings, students spend time learning about resting heart rate, maximum heart rate and how those figures reflect on their heart health. They learn to manually calculate each and understand how the exertion they feel correlates to their actual heart rate. 

Reinforcing Lessons with Visual Tools

By adding the ZONE, Merrill’s given her students a tool by which they can confirm what they feel with what they see on their wrist.

“I spend quite a bit of time at the beginning trying to explain to them about their target heart rate, maximum heart rate so they have a feeling so they can self-monitor it,” Merrill said. “I’m constantly telling them ‘look at your ZONE. Where are you? Are you where you need to be toward the goal?’

Merrill wants students to spend at least 30 minutes of every 50-minute session exercising at a moderate or vigorous level. Students can check their wrists to see if they are in the correct heart rate zone: yellow for moderate and red for vigorous as displayed on their ZONE HRM.

“I want to challenge them to be their best self and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” Merrill said.

Some students are meeting that goal. Others are still working towards them. For Merrill, that’s success. Her students have bought into her program and accepted the responsibility of exercising away from her class. She’s still able to gauge their workouts and use that data that comes to her through the Spirit Mobile app to help them get closer to their goals the next time she sees them before sending them out for another week of self-assessment.

“All of the data is there,” she said. “It really helps in reteaching, in talking to them about what do they need to do their own individual betterment.”

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    Spirit Mobile App Keeps PE Students Connected, Motivated to Exercise Away from School
    Article Name
    Spirit Mobile App Keeps PE Students Connected, Motivated to Exercise Away from School
    By implementing the IHT ZONE and IHT Spirit Mobile App for her independent study PE students, teacher maintains the essential classroom connection.
    Publisher Name
    Interactive Health Technologies, LLC
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