Hawthorn Middle School South students head into the locker rooms with what appears like a skip in their step. They quickly change into gym uniforms, which also include a Polar H7 heart rate monitor.
In the gym PE teachers Chris Crandall and Brian Rude have the students’ names projected on a giant screen and on their iPads. The heart rates of all students are tracked using the Polar GoFit app.
The monitors are being introduced this year to Middle School South seventh and eighth graders. Whatever they are doing in physical education class – basketball, fitness testing, cardiovascular equipment, soccer – students wear the monitors and track their physical activity. Typically students are expected to be between 140 to 200 beats per minute for 20 minutes during their physical education period. This technology allows physical education teachers to take the guesswork out of deciding which students are truly physically active in class. Grading is more “objective”. It also allow teachers to differentiate instruction. Students are all at different levels of fitness. The Polar technology allow students to work at their own activity levels.
During Health classes, part of the curriculum allows students to track their food, calories, nutrients, and physical activity through supertracker.usda.gov. They analyze and create a plan to improve their findings.
“We purchased the monitors because we wanted to motivate the students to improve their workouts and subsequently heighten their heart rates,” said Mr. Crandall. He said the decision came out of the national movement of the high rate of childhood obesity and heart disease being the number one killer, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Students are motivated to increase their heart rate and keep it elevated for longer periods of their gym class,” said Mr. Rude.
The teachers have found the heart rate monitor a huge motivational tool for students. On the sidelines of a team game students can be seen doing jumping jacks or push-ups, they said.
In the Middle School South classrooms, teachers are noticing the benefits as well, said Principal Robert Natale. “Raising their heart rates gets that flow of oxygen going through students’ systems. They are in a better state of mind for learning and taking on rigorous academic instruction,” Mr. Natale said.
Teachers reported that students and parents can monitor daily workouts through personal accounts on the Polar GoFit website. According to the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 website, children should get 60 minutes of exercise a day.
What students have to say
“The monitors make me push myself harder,” said Damian Herrera, 12, “At home now I go outside and play soccer with friends as a way to keep my heart rate up longer.”
Jordan Krasner and Aiden Isaacson, both 12, participate regularly in sports outside of school. But seeing how high they can elevate their heart rates has made them tougher competitors on the basketball court.
“I was dumbfounded that I could get my heart rate so high. In basketball I feel like I can move faster and I don’t tire as quickly on the court,” Jordan said.
The goal is for Middle School South to offer Polar Heart Rate technology to all the physical education classes next year. Hawthorn School District 73 will consider expanding the program to Middle School North at a later date.