Arroyo Valley Students Take Heart
By Dianne Anderson
In the 26 years that Scott Smith has taught physical education, he’s heard all the stories and excuses to get out of class – over and over again.
Some kids don’t want to run a mile, shoot or run the ball, or be out in the middle of the soccer field on display. They get frustrated, their grades drop, and nobody wins.
But a recent grant funding now makes it easier for students to take heart, and take control of their own fitness.
Scott wrote and brought home a big win for Arroyo High School with the SBCUSD Innovation Grant for $47,937 for his Heart Zone Project. Using GPS heart rate monitor bands, students can get instant feedback while they’re working out on any type of physical activity that they choose.
The bands are interactive, unique and real time.
For the most part, the students compete against themselves to get their bodies stronger. By the end of the class, and end of the week, they can see how hard their heart is working, and get a printout or email of their status.
Scott said the bands are accurate to provide a full picture of not only how students are performing, but other data that reveals if their heart is working too hard, and too fast.
The bands go beyond a simple assessment of watching kids for skill level.
“When the student says how am I doing, it’s no longer a guessing game,” he said. “It’s 21st century technology and innovation coming together. Now we’re introducing technology to create a whole, healthy fit body.”
Scott said he wanted to create an immersive approach for students, something that both athletes and non-athletes could appropriate. The GPS smart sports bands are worn during class, and gives data on three levels — resting, moderate and vigorous.
The goal for all students is to get to a 70% moderate to vigorous level, based on their individual heart rate. The PE program runs four days a week.
“We’re not leaving anyone behind and we’re not grading you against someone else. We are giving you the freedom to take control of your fitness,” said Scott, a five-time winner of the San Bernardino County Coach of the Year.
Before the GPS bands, he and other teachers at the school created the Student Choice PE program that gives students three sports options for a three-week period at the school, such as soccer or Frisbee or a fitness group.
Some students liked that they could switch out after one week, and move to other activities, like jogging, basketball, squats or circuit training. He said students are excited that they can beat their own goals.
By the end of the 35-minute class, they can review their data.
“We have a lot of students that now come up to me and say I was doing 1,800 steps, and I’m up to 3800 steps now,” he said. “It’s impressive because they’re the ones pushing themselves.”
If students stay in the red vigorous zone for an unusually extended period of time, he would contact the parents to make them aware.
Currently, he offers the assessment project to 144 students at the high school, a one of a kind project in the school district. Eventually, he hopes to get all 600 kids at the high school participating.
“We’re not just talking about throwing a ball anymore. We’re doing a whole readout of what your body is doing. If there are any warning signs, the data is going to be there for you.”
Scott is a demonstration teacher, meaning he teaches other PE teachers how to teach. He’s also the recipient of the 201l Superintendent’s Certificated Employee of the Year Award.
The Heart Zone Project also includes a wellness component so the students can make other healthy choices, monitor their nutrition, their weight, and talk about the physical and mental aspects of staying healthy. Some kids will say they’ve lost weight, and others want to gain weight, but for him, it’s about sparking the conversation.
Studies show several side benefits of sports. Students that play hard, study harder. Research indicates that students who engage 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous workout are up to 30 percent more alert in the classroom. They’re also less likely to get in trouble.
When students start connecting the dots on fitness, they naturally seem to eat healthier, Scott said, “They start saying, hey I feel good. Maybe I better not eat that second bag of chips.”
Most of all, students take control of their own fitness. Getting them into the process early is one important key help change their behavior that will follow them through adulthood.
“If we don’t start training or talking about fitness and wellness at that age, then we’re not changing lives. The bottom line for this Heart Zone is I want to change one life at a time,” he said.