Kinesthetic Learning, Powered in Part by IHT ZONE Heart Rate Monitors, Pushes Students to Improve Academic Achievement Levels
A Cobb County School District (Ga.) teacher’s innovative approach uses games and heart rate monitors to help students improve their physical fitness, emotional health and academic development.
Sean Splawski, the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Lab teacher at Mableton Elementary, implemented his Eduscize curriculum and saw tremendous improvement in student engagement and learning before the COVID-19 pandemic forced students into online learning.
Splawksi began focusing on movement in his STEAM lab after a Johns Hopkins University study revealed that the average 19-year-old was only as active as a 60-year-old. Additional research proves that movement-based learning improves thinking and analytical skills and increases retention and memory by empowering students to discover information themselves. Splawski looked at three years of math test results, and what he saw inspired him to believe that movement could be key to helping students gain in achievement.
“We have to be constantly innovating in our teaching, and most of that is going to be through technology,” he said. “But too many teachers keep students sitting still. Schools have almost forgotten how much students need play and need time to be kids. I looked at our school data for three years. The data showed we weren’t doing enough.”
To get students moving, Splawski did two things:
- He worked with his PE department to purchase IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitors for students to wear in his lab.
- He created Eduscize, which focuses on kinesthetic learning by engaging students with physical activity while they are learning academic concepts and solving problems through game-play.
Students wear the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors while in his lab to stay connected to their physical activity. He challenges students to keep their heart rate up – as shown by the color of the heart rate monitor. Eduscize utilizes the natural link between the brain and the body to maximize learning. Brain research shows that when kids move, learning improves. Eduscize utilizes the natural link between the brain and the body to maximize learning. Brain research shows that when children move, learning improves.
“The heart rate monitors are an engaging component for the students,” he said.
Engaging Students Emotionally as Well as Physically
Splawski understands it’s one thing to provide students opportunities to be active but another to get them to engage. Some students lack an emotional connection to school. Others deal with issues such as anxiety or anger. Splawski sees the need to reach those students as well.
“We focus on SEL and how students feel about school,” Splawski said. “We need to identify the students who are struggling with their emotions.”
By working with the counseling department, Splawski can provide heart rate monitors for students who struggle with emotional control and show them when an episode is about to happen. The students can use what their counselors teach them to self-regulate themselves through their feelings.
“We can pair those students with heart rate monitors so they can see things as they happen with their anxiety or anger,” he said.
The IHT ZONE heart rate monitor shows students their actual heart rate and their heart rate zone – blue for resting or calm, yellow for moderate or nervous, red for vigorous or upset. Heart rate is the leading indicator of a potential episode, so providing students with technology to see their heart rate and the skills to manage what they see is essential.
Elementary school counselors across Littleton Public Schools (Colo.) use the heart rate monitors to help students manage emotions such as stress and anxiety. NBC’s Today Show profiled their successful program in January, 2020.
Introducing Eduscize to Classroom Colleagues
Empowered by what he saw from his STEAM Lab students, Splawski spent February working with other Mableton teachers. He introduced them to Eduscize and showed them how to implement it in their classrooms. Their early results mirrored what he saw in his lab.
“The teachers said they were becoming better teachers,” he said. “The kids were getting higher scores playing games and answering questions as opposed to sitting at a desk and doing a worksheet.”
Beyond teachers adapting their styles, Splawski saw students taking the games and adapting them to better fit lessons or needs.
“We saw kids taking games and creating different standards on their own,” he said. “It was incredible to see the kids adapting. Once they were given instruction, they were ready to play. Their independence and confidence really increased.”
Eduscize offers teachers a unique opportunity because its lessons are designed for classroom teachers who don’t have the same space to get students active that a PE teacher would have.
“In January and February, we built a curriculum that includes 144 games,” Splawski said. “What makes it work is that it’s designed for small-space learning.”
Though the pandemic cut Splawki’s initial Eduscize implementation short, he’s eager for the opportunity to re-introduce it to his colleagues, both at Mableton and across Cobb County, the second-largest school district in Georgia.
“The possibilities of where we can go are endless,” he said. “We need to continue to inspire teachers to try new things. They are risky, but if we don’t take risks, we don’t get the reward. It is on us to ensure that students are learning, but we can do that by making sure they are having fun and staying engaged.”