Friday 5 April 2019

Heart Rate Monitors in Physical Education

David van den Bijgaart

I am currently in my eighth year of teaching, and have been at the same medium sized school in Devon, Alberta, where I teach almost exclusively PE to grades 5-9. My teaching is constantly evolving as I dream up new ideas, some great, some good, and some terrible. I am very thankful for my PE team that helps me keep my dreams and ideas in check.
            I have always valued assessment, and am constantly changing how I assess and evaluate my students. Assessment is an important piece within quality physical education as it provides the feedback students need to make changes to what they are learning. With that being said, I believe that PE is a subject that needs to be assessed differently than academic core classes such as math or science, where the answers are more clearly correct or incorrect.
It is difficult to accurately assess effort in PE classes but I believe it to be so important. A student who is putting forth partial effort is still getting many health benefits over a student who is doing nothing at all. I have always disliked how subjective assessing effort within PE can be. A student who is a fit athletic individual can physically perform more movement than a student who is just starting out within their personal fitness journey, and it may appear that they are putting forth more effort. This is why I started to pursue trying to get a class set of HR monitors, so that I could help educate our students on how the heart responds to work that their body is doing. The heart does not lie in response to the work that you are doing, and the effort that you are putting forth.
            This journey has not been a short one, it took about five years from having the idea to actually getting the heart rate monitors into our building. A lot of time was spent researching and trying to find the best monitors to be used within a PE program. Some of the things that had to be considered were cost, ease of use, cleanliness, and accuracy. Through my research I discovered many equipment dealers provide many options and seem to be adding more each year, check out some options here:

Our school found the Heart Zones system to be the best fit. It was designed by a former Physical Education teacher to be specifically used in PE programs. One thing I liked the most about these monitors was that it was a forearm monitor rather than a chest strap. Even though it is known that a chest monitor is the “Gold Standard” for accuracy, I struggled with the cleanliness of sharing monitors between classes and showing kids how to properly wear the monitor to get an accurate reading. The forearm monitor can easily have the strap switched out (which allows students to bring their own strap), it is comfortable to wear, and showing student proper placement does not present the same issues as a chest monitor.
Another advantage of this system is that it allows for instant feedback where the students are able to see their zone in real time (on the monitor they wear, as well as, the big board display), this has proven to be a HUGE motivator within my classes. Once worn, I literally cannot get kids to stop moving as they just want to see their color change in response to their increased HR. This system also allows teachers to run reports to see how the class is doing as a whole and email those reports to students/parents.  Soon, Heart Zones is coming out with an online portal which will allow us to track individual progress over set time periods.
In addition, this system does not have any ongoing fees. Some of the systems researched require yearly subscriptions which would not be feasible for our school to continue. Heart Zones provides constant updates and improvements to their system at no extra costs after purchasing.
Heart Zones has also created something called Fit Points (read more about them here). This is essentially calculated by LOAD = Intensity X Frequency X Time. This provides the teacher and students  a number that can be used as a target to hit within specific classes. As a teacher I change that target number based on the activities that I am doing within my day. Sometimes I provide my students choices as to what activities they do as long as they achieve “X Fit points” by the end of the class. There are so many ways that FIT points can be used within a PE setting, and kids love trying to set a new “high score”.
This was the process of researching and choosing a monitor system that worked well for our school. I have really enjoyed having the monitors and hope you can also find a way to get a class set to be used within your PE program. Next I will provide some ideas to help with getting the funds for a monitor system, as I believe one of the biggest barriers for schools is cost of a system and funding at the school level.
Our school division, for a couple years now, offered money from the “Innovative Grant Fund”. Individuals were able to apply for funding for projects that would better the learning environment within their school. Although I was unable to receive money from this fund I did apply the years that it was offered. I do know some schools within our division were successful in receiving this fund for HR sets. Check to see if your school division has something similar that they offer.
Another great place to start is with your Parent Advisory Council (PAC). We have an amazing group of parents who are constantly raising money to be used within our building. I know one of their main objectives is to spend money on things that will benefit the entire student body and not just a select number of students. Our PAC was able to contribute about $2000 to our PE program for the monitors. I would highly suggest going to a PAC meeting and pitching your idea to them, show them that you have a passion for physical education and the well being of their children. I found it far better to go in person rather than sending a submission to them because then you can answer any questions they might have.
            The contribution from our PAC was a starting point but did not cover the entire cost. With the help from our school secretaries I ran a gift card fundraiser for 2 weeks before Christmas. We used a company called Fund Scrip which was a quick and painless fundraiser. Other than collecting orders, this company took care of the packaging and sending of gift cards to purchasers. Fund Scrip has a couple of different options available so check out their website to see what would work best for your school. From this fundraiser we were able to make about $600. The key is to encourage people to purchase gift cards for everyday items that they buy anyway. Gift cards for groceries or gas are an easy sell because the customer still gets the same dollar for dollar value but the school will receive a percentage in return. There are many fundraiser options out there, but this is one that just worked for us.
            I also made a deal with my administration that they would match any money that I was able to raise or bring forth. I used $1200 from our school PE budget, which was almost the entire budget for the year outside of replacing some consumable items such as dodgeballs, shuttles, etc. With the $600 raised from the gift cards and the $1200 from the PE budget our admin gave us another $1800 from the school wide budget to purchase a class set of monitors.
            This was the process that we went through to get HR monitors into our school. I hope that you are able to take some items from our experience to make it work within your building. Below are a few websites that I have found that offer grants that might be useful for funding as well:

Submitted by: David van den Bijgaart, Friends of HPEC Grant Recipient