Heart Rate Monitors Add Accountability to PE Activities

May 18, 2016 04:00 PM

Fourth and fifth grade students at Hiawatha Elementary School have added a new element to their PE lessons by wearing heart rate monitors to help them learn more about what their heart is doing as they exercise.  The constant visual feedback lets students know if they are working hard enough to stay in the healthy fitness zone.  The technology also allows their teacher to better assess how rigorously the students are working.  The expectation is 70% of their maximum heart rate or higher.

“What might look like a student isn’t working hard on the outside, might actually show that they are at 90% of their maximum heart rate,” explained Tanner Roos, Hiawatha physical education teacher. “The same is true for a student that looks to be active in class, but is only working at 60% of their maximum heart rate. It’s hard to tell by looking at students how hard they are actually working.  The heart rate monitors are the best way to tell if a student is meeting the goal.”

A grant from the Cedar Rapids Community Schools Foundation and John and Lawrence Giacoletto Foundation funded the purchase of transmitters, straps, a projector, and an iPad for Hiawatha and Coolidge elementary schools.

The heart rate monitors work well with almost every PE activity and have changed the way many activities are played, according to Roos.  “When the students have the heart rate monitors on, my goal is to find a way for each student to get 20 minutes in their target heart rate zone.  Most traditional games include some amount of standing around.  My goal is to reduce the number of people standing still and increase the number of people moving.  This might include changing rules or adding extra equipment to keep students moving.”

Students were very excited to use technology in their PE class and are quick to put on the monitor at the start of class. They recognize that they are being held accountable for how hard they work in PE class and are interested in learning what types of activities tend to increase their heart rate more than others. 

“The use of heart rate monitors is leading to students wanting to move because they know they should, rather than because they’ve been asked to keep moving,” said Roos. “At the end of class, students aren’t as concerned about who won or lost, they are more excited about the number of minutes they’ve spent in their target zone.  All students can leave class feeling accomplished.”

Parents had the opportunity to learn more about the program (Polar GOFIT) during parent/teacher conferences so they understood that the information is being used to help motivate students to keep working their hardest. 

“This program provides concrete data to students and helps them become accountable for the work they are doing in PE,” added Roos.

The heart rate monitors are also being used in some middle and high school PE classes in the District.

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