Three years ago, I received a grant from the Suffolk Zone NYS AHPERD for the purchase of accelerometers. For the last two years, I have been experimenting with ways to incorporate them into my classes in a meaningful yet efficient manner. There is no doubt that the use of the accelerometers increases the Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA) of students. However, I felt there was much more that could be done with the data than simply looking at daily individual progress. Realistically, though, the keeping of individual data on each student for multiple classes over an extended period of time seemed too overwhelming for me. I decided to start small and begin with a single class. The initial idea was to have one third-grade class record their individual mileage each period and then have them calculate the miles the whole class traveled at the end of that session. We would then add together multiple class sessions to travel virtually across the country to some meaningful place. I approached, Mrs. Kenny, the classroom teacher, to share the purpose of our project and to determine if the math involved would be appropriate. Thankfully, not only did she think it was appropriate, she also offered to facilitate the calculations and record keeping in her classroom!
The PE Institute and Twitter
Choosing our destinations happened over a period of time. I had gone to the National PE Institute in North Carolina in the summer and met an amazing group of physical education professionals. Likewise, through the urging of Artie Kamiya and other leaders in the profession, I became motivated to join the community of teachers sharing their knowledge on Twitter. Originally, the plan was to take the students to some place fun like Disney; educational like the Grand Canyon; or sport related like football stadiums, but after meeting and connecting with such dedicated elementary teachers across the country, I realized that a visit to other elementary schools would be both educational and fun. Here’s our final itinerary: start with a visit to Austin, Texas and Jim DeLine, then to Frasier Valley, Colorado and Lynn Burrows, next to Farmington, Minnesota and Joe McCarthy then finally, to Geneva, Illinois and Mike Graham.
The mileage for this trip would total over 5000 miles. There are 23 students in the class and we meet 3 times a week for 40 minutes. While I pride myself on having every student moving as much as possible, it became apparent after only one week, that we would need more time to move. Mrs. Kenny asked if the students could wear them all day long. I was thrilled, not only did this take the physical maintenance of the equipment out of the gym, but more importantly it motivated the classroom teacher and students to include more physical activity into their school day. Mrs. Kenny introduced brain breaks into her daily routine and began using skip-counting exercises to help reinforce multiplication tables.
Cross Curriculum and Cross Country
Very quickly, this PE project became a true exercise in interdisciplinary teaching. Our students were moving in PE, calculating their miles on their accelerometers (math and technology) and traveling across the country (geography). Mrs. Kenny has been teaching about the transcontinental railroad and the Pueblo Indians on our way to Texas to incorporate Social Studies. We will reach Highland Park Elementary School sometime this week. When we get there we will have a video conference with one of Jim DeLine’s 3rd grade classes. The students will ask each other questions about their state, school, and interests. After our visit, the children will write postcards to their parents as though they were actually in Texas using the information they garnered in the virtual visit. Then we are off to Colorado and Frasier Valley Elementary where we will meet our new pen pals from Lynn Burrows’ school.
Public Speaking and PE Marketing
The Board of Education has asked each school in the district to attend a board meeting and present what makes their school special. The principal has asked our students to represent Southdown Primary. The students will have the opportunity to stand up in front of adults and explain what and how they are learning. I can’t tell you how proud I am of these students. They have embraced every aspect of the learning involved in this process and will represent Southdown, their teacher, and the physical education program admirably.
By any measure, this program has been a success. We have increased MVPA throughout the students’ day and contributed to meeting the Common Core Standards and academic goals of the school. Other students are asking if they will be able to use the accelerometers and we are looking into how to make this program a grade level initiative for next year. We will need some new schools to visit! Anyone interested?