Glen Crest Middle School PE teacher Kelly Nordlund doesn't have fond memories of PE class when she was a student, so needed a way to create a program that she - and her students - would benefit from. She created a more fitness-focused curriculum for her students that includes plenty of choice and introduced the IHT ZONE heart rate monitor to show students exactly how hard they were exercising in class.
"We are really trying to change the picture of PE," she said. "This isn’t your mom and dad’s PE class. We are trying to rebrand PE. I want to hit home with them how important their health is, the lifelong aspect of this. In this day and age, it’s so easy to sit still and play video games or be on your phone. That’s what I’m really hoping they take away from our classes – the importance of getting active and staying active.”
The IHT ZONE heart rate monitor connects students to their fitness through familiar technology in the same way their parents use technology during the workouts children see them taking part in - OrangeTheory and the like. Many students also have their own Smart watches that track activity. Nordlund says the IHT ZONE shows students the data that's important and how to use it as motivation.
"It’s the feedback," she said. "You want to meet your goals and see that confirmation. We do Zumba. We do a lot of Just Dance videos. I do yoga sculpt with them. They are getting a great workout. Whatever you’re doing, if you’re enjoying it you’re more likely to do it in your adult life or just out of school. And that’s kind of the whole point, right? Fitness for life and be healthy for your whole life."
2. Connecting Students to Emotional Health Using Heart Rate Monitors
Many schools use the IHT ZONE heart rate monitors to help students self-manage emotions. By wearing the monitors throughout the day, students can see when their emotional state might change, as indicated when their heart rate doesn't match their activity level. For many students, it's eye-opening to see their heart rate surge during a stressful or anxious part of the school day. Braham Area Schools Social Worker Jonelle Klemz sits with students at the end of each day to review the heart rate graph produced by their IHT ZONE heart rate monitors. Along with her student, she looks for instances of elevated heart rate and asks the student what they think caused it.
“One girl, I think she was either fifth or sixth grade, was spiked up out of nowhere into the high yellow, low red. I just kind of looked (at the graph) and wondered what that was,” Klemz recalled.
The student quickly remembered why her heart rate appeared elevated.
“And she says, ‘oh, I know, that was a hard test and I wanted to do well,’” Klemz said. “Then she turns to me and asks, ‘so, is that what stress looks like?’
Seeing her heart rate spike during the test, the student was able to practice the breathing techniques Klemz taught students to help calm themselves down.
3. Simple Data Collection
IHT believes the most important metric to improve student health and wellness remains minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. The IHT ZONE wrist heart rate monitor focuses solely on the amount of time a student spends exercising at that level. The Centers for Disease Control recommend children get at least 60 minutes of exercise every day, 30 of which should be MVPA.
The ZONE simplifies many of the metrics used by more commercial fitness devices and helps the students and teachers focus on MVPA.
“Here’s what I really like about the IHT ZONEs: it is simple,” Des Moines Public Schools Physical Education and Health Curriculum Director Carlye Satterwhite said. “I have worn my own personal fitness device for years and I still don’t know what to focus on with it. For these students, they just need to focus on their target heart rate. This has that information and that’s all, and to put that information into their hands earlier is huge.”
4. Real-Time Feedback for Students
From the moment students activate their IHT ZONE heart rate monitors, whether on campus or on their own, they receive real-time feedback about the effort they are giving.
The IHT ZONE shows students both their actual heart rate and the heart rate zone they are currently in as defined by color. Blue corresponds to resting; yellow indicates elevated activity; red signifies vigorous activity. If teachers want students spending a certain amount of time in the yellow zone, students can easily see if they are in the yellow zone and either maintain their activity level or increase it.
“The kids are understanding,” Fort Lupton Middle School (Colo.) health teacher Lindsay Yost said. “They want to see it get into the yellow zone. They want to work much harder.”
5. Automatic Delivery of Essential Data to Student, Teacher, Parent
Following a session, the IHT ZONE software provides more detailed feedback by immediately emailing a heart rate report to the student, the teacher and the parents (if they’ve elected to receive emails). This report reinforces the real-time feedback and allows students to add their own reflections by replying to the email with a journal post.
The email sets IHT’s technology apart from other heart rate monitors. The email provides:
- the student’s minutes of activity in each heart rate zone,
- confirmation that the student met the teacher’s goal of MVPA for that activity, and
- a graph showing the student’s heart rate throughout the session
“You can do all those things and get all of that data from the automatic email you receive after your session,” said Australian physical educator Shane Stubbs, who integrated the Spirit System into his programs.
Stubbs said he often questions students who choose to wear their own monitors in his class about the workout information they receive.
“I say ‘hands up if you’ve ever looked at the dashboard on the app or on that website?’” he said. “Then I ask, ‘how many of you know what it means?’ None of them do.”
6. Keeping Students Connected to Teacher-Led Feedback
Maintaining the student-teacher connection is an essential element of IHT’s heart rate solution. For students who have transitioned to online PE programs, using their IHT ZONE monitors with the IHT Spirit Mobile App keeps everyone up to date.
Students can choose activities that work for them when they have time. Teachers see the heart rate data, analyze it and have meaningful conversations to keep students on track.
“We knew we wanted to embrace technology and make it so the students could pick something that works for them,” Fossil Ridge (Colo.) High School PE teacher Lisa McVicker said. “With the IHT App, it’s simple. You start it up, do your thing, stop it and there it is.”
Though they aren’t there to watch the student exercise, teachers still have the ability to guide students with specific feedback, sometimes to the surprise of the students.
“The reports are integral to what I’m doing,” Charles City (Iowa) High School PE teacher Steve Stallsmith said. “Kids ask me how I know what I know. ‘Well, I get your emails.’ That allows much better, much more real conversations. It surprises the students that we have this data, and that’s a good thing. It starts the real conversations we need to have with kids.”
7. Multi-Curricular Use in Overall Student Wellness Program
The IHT ZONE works outside of the PE environment as well. Mableton (Ga.) Elementary School STEAM Lab teacher Sean Splawski uses the heart rate monitors to encourage activity in his classroom. He sees kinesthetic learning as a key to keeping students healthy and preparing them for academic success.
“Too many teachers keep students sitting still,” he said. “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.”
He created a new curriculum – Eduscize -- that he’s rolling out to his fellow classroom teachers. The goal is to engage students with movement-based games as they learn their material. The heart rate monitors encourage students to keep their heart rates up as they move during their games. Early results, he said, proved promising.
“In my class, every kid was sweating after 30 minutes of solving math problems,” he said. “The kids were getting higher scores playing games and answering questions as opposed to sitting at a desk and doing a worksheet.”
Through heart rate technology, educators are rediscovering the value of movement and creating PE and wellness programs that prepare students to choose to live healthy lives after school.
“This is the first time in 10 years of teaching that we have really made the right choice to replicate for them what is outside in real life in terms of healthy living,” Satterwhite said.