Schools continue to see improved student engagement and academic results in STEM classrooms that pair the Eduscize curriculum with heart rate monitors.
Sean Splawski first introduced his Eduscize curriculum in his STEAM lab at Mableton Elementary School (Cobb County Public Schools, Ga.). He paired the learning games he’s developed with IHT ZONE heart rate monitors. The results exceeded his initial expectations.
“Feedback has been really good and the excitement (from students and teachers) is really powerful,” Splawski said.
Since his initial launch, he’s expanded into school districts across Georgia and conducted demonstrations in places that include Dallas Independent School District in Texas. Feedback, he said, remains extremely positive.
“Everywhere this is being used, the feedback has been exceptional,” Splawski said.
“The program is very engaging for the students,” Gonzalez Personalized Learning Academy teacher Karina Almendarez said. “They really enjoy coming into the gym and look forward to putting on the monitors and observing their heart rate.”
Improving Student Performance and Teacher Efficacy
Specifically, teachers mention student engagement levels and increased academic achievement, specifically with math. Splawski said adding movement – even in a classroom not specifically designed for lots of physical activity – makes it easier for students to focus on tasks or concepts that might give them trouble if they are seated at a desk.
“The math workshop is center-based, but when you flip the script of a traditional workshop model and add in the movement, the engagement increases so teachers spend less time having to manage kids who are off-task,” Splawski explains.
The simple format helps everyone get off to a good start. A typical lesson includes:
- Introduction of the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors;
- Explanation of the learning objective and games to help achieve the objective; and
- Movement between stations as students answer questions correctly.
“Students are continually learning, sweating, having fun and getting energy out,” he said. “All of it is taking place because they play games of engagement first. And the heart rate monitors are an engaging component. In my class, every kid was sweating after 30 minutes of solving math problems.”
Like Splawski, Almendarez stressed the importance of getting students active again.
“Coming back from COVID, many kids didn’t move as much as they needed to,” she said. “We need to get our students moving and motivated to learn at the same time.”
And the results?
“The kids were getting higher scores playing games and answering questions as opposed to sitting at a desk and doing a worksheet,” Splawski said. “Every teacher that has used the program has reported higher collective teacher efficacy. When you have programming that increases engagement and achievement in the classroom but it also makes teachers collectively better…”
Eye-Opening Eduscize Demonstrations
After seeing Eduscize in action in Splawki’s classroom at Mableton Elementary School, Cobb County school district officials authorized him to expand the program across the district. Once word got out, the program expanded again. Classroom teachers ask Splawski to deliver demonstrations for their administrators and many leave ready to purchase.
Earlier this spring, Splawski met with Buchanan Elementary School (Haralson County Schools, Ga.) Principal Ethelyn Johnson. One of Johnson’s teachers wanted to add Eduscize to their teaching but Johnson needed to see the program in action.
“I suggested we go into a classroom for a demonstration,” Splawski said. “I put the heart rate monitors on the kids and we did a warmup. Kids immediately noticed the monitors changing colors, so we learned about that. I put out four stations and in a 5-minute mini-lesson, I explained how to play four games. For the next 20 minutes, the kids were rotating through the stations having a ball.”
Throughout the demonstration, Johnson saw how students who weren’t participating suddenly became engaged in the lesson and the games.
“She couldn’t believe how quickly they were engaged in their learning and how it changed the classroom environment,” Splawski said. “Students that were not participating when we came in the classroom immediately were interested in learning what the games and monitors were.”
Wearing the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors, students moved quickly between stations and played different games that focused on the multiplication and fractions lessons that were part of the day’s math focus.
Developing a Passion for Learning
The heart rate monitors push students to stay active. The CDC recommends students get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every day, and physical education classes can deliver the bulk of that. But every school doesn’t offer PE for each student every day, creating a gap that Splawksi’s program helps fill. He relies on data to show that value.
“It’s all about data,” he said. “We are constantly collecting data as teachers. That’s how we know students are learning.”
Grades provide one data point. The heart rate monitors provide another. The IHT ZONE shows students what heart rate zone they are in (blue represents relaxed, yellow represents moderate, red represents vigorous) and encourages them to increase their activity levels.
At the end of an Eduscize lesson, they see how many minutes they spent in each heart rate zone. Teachers can help students make the connection between exercise at an elevated heart rate and improved academic achievement. That will further encourage students to welcome new learning opportunities.
“We have to develop an early love for learning,” Splawski said. “We have a hard time with our basics, and that makes it harder for students entering the workforce to find good jobs. The program provides the basics but makes it fun. It makes kids not scared to learn. When kids are no longer afraid of something, they are willing to try. They should be allowed to move and thrive. It makes school better for them.”
Movement remains key, Spawski said, especially as students continue to come out of the pandemic, where we know that many were not as physically active as they needed to be. He sees this as an opportunity to change teaching strategies for the better.
“Teaching doesn’t have to be structured the same way it was when we were kids,” he said. “After going through the pandemic, now is the time to change the way we do things to promote wellness and health. (We must) give our students new opportunities to move and not just be so seated so often. We have to let kids be more physically active.”
As the year winds down and schools look to close out their spending, teachers still have time to request funding for the combination of Eduscize and IHT ZONE heart rate monitors. Along with local budgets, teachers can also ask about federal allocations that include the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds.
Even if ESSER I funding has already been allocated, ESSER II (spend by Sept. 30, 2023) and ESSER III (spend by Sept. 30, 2024) may be available. This map shows ESSER allocations for each state. Click on each state to see a district-by-district breakdown of the funding allocations.