Teaching young people about physical education is highly important in today’s world. If kids can get excited about physical activity and learn about their health early on, the hope is that they can continue with a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. For most kids, this starts in school during physical education and health classes. Teachers are always trying to make learning more fun to make sure kids stay engaged. Technology is something that can make learning exciting and can also help kids create personal goals to work towards by providing data. Kate Baker, a Physical Education teacher at a high school in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, wants her students to enjoy exercising so they can lead healthy lifestyles.
Kate shares her experience in using technology in her classes of high school students:
Photo from Instagram: @oakbaker
Where My Passion and Motivation Comes From
My name is Kate Baker and I am a Physical Education teacher at a high school in Canada. Ironically, I was actually a student at the high school myself and now find myself colleagues with some of my old teachers! We have just moved into our newly constructed school which is a major improvement from our last building.
As I packed up my classroom last year in preparation for the move, I started to think about how change is the opportunity to do something amazing.
I have been teaching for 10 years and I think I just needed to freshen up my practice. As a multi-sport athlete in high school and then a varsity soccer player, I have always had a passion for competition. Soccer has played such a huge part of my life for about 25 years. I even still play with a group of women in the top division in our city. However, it wasn’t until I had my son, Charlie, that I started to branch out to running and some circuit workouts. Anyone who knows me knows that I HATE RUNNING! Well I used to. And I HATE THE GYM. Well I still do, but I have found a way to get the benefits of the gym in the privacy of my own home by simply doing body resistance exercises, yoga and pilates.
This motivation all came about when a group of colleagues decided to do Tough Mudder. It’s an 18km obstacle course that tests endurance, strength, fears and teamwork. At the time we decided to do this, Charlie was about 6 months old. Needless to say I would need to train and train hard for this as my competitive nature would not allow me to be the weak link. This meant I would need to run. Yes, run. The worst! Our training sessions as a team were tough at first as I was trying to build back up my endurance. I started using some apps to track my data. I found that if I was documenting how far I was running, how fast and how consistent my kilometers were, I enjoyed the process more. I think it was just my competitiveness kicking in as I always think (and know) that I can do better. Tough Mudder was a huge success. Before it, I couldn’t run longer than 10km and to accomplish 18km was a huge feat!
Teaching Physical Education Instead of Just ‘Doing’
Photo from Instagram: @oakbaker
This is when my passion for running and physical fitness stuck with me. I continued to run and started researching exercises I could do at home to gain some more strength and muscle mass. I trained for a half marathon and ran the Good Life Victoria Half Marathon in October of 2014 and loved the whole training process and the race! This got me thinking: why did I wait until I was 30 to start investing and educating myself on a LIFE of health instead of just relying on the game of soccer to keep me fit. I started thinking about it from a teaching standpoint. Since it is my job to teach 15 year old girls Physical Education, why don’t I make it more of an EDUCATION rather than simply skills, drills and games covering a handful of sports. I wanted it to serve more of purpose. What can I teach these girls that will get them interested, invested, motivated and help them become and stay healthy even after they leave my class and the school?
The process started out so simple. Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, I began by surveying my classes. I asked them what they enjoyed, what they didn’t enjoy, their hobbies, if they have suffered any injuries, if they were interested in learning about nutrition and health. Their feedback was amazing!
It helped me formulate my classes to become more student driven by what THEY want and are interested in instead of what WE HAVE TO DO or what the rest of the department is doing.
I did have to go out on a limb to just try this approach being the “young one” in the department and the only female. This tiny leap definitely paid off. What I began doing each unit was seeing how popular each activity was. If the majority of the class enjoyed soccer, we would do a full soccer unit. If the majority of the class wasn’t keen on basketball, we would supplement days with alternative activities. This is what kept the girls wanting to come to PE instead of dragging themselves there. They would know we would be doing something they wanted to do instead of something they had to do. Some alternative activities we tried were yoga, pilates, kickboxing and circuit workouts. I showed them about 4 different versions and then had them break into groups, design their own and teach them to class. I thought it was important to teach them that they don’t need tons of equipment or an expensive gym membership to workout and stay healthy. Being really intimidated by the gym myself, I found so much value in this exercise and the girls took so much pride in designing their workout and teaching it to their peers.
As the weather grew nicer, throughout the spring we began a run/walk program. Each student designed their own program based on their own level. I had them research current programs and design one that would best suit their ability. I designed routes around the neighborhood and would use Ran app to share the directions with them. They had been experimenting with the Nike+ running app on their phones for some gym classes and used it to help them track their distance and their time. It was so wonderful to get the girls out in the community, running and having them feel good about themselves. They would follow their own program and graduate through it so they were feeling accomplished based on a set of their OWN goals instead of department standards.
Using Tech for Fitness
Photo from Instagram: @oakbaker
That brings us to this school year and the current situation I am in with using the Wahoo Fitness TICKR Heart Rate Monitors. Everything I mentioned prior, all played a part in the journey to get our girls PE classes more engaged and more alive in the realm of physical activity and lifelong wellness. After collaborating with my colleague, Laura, on putting together an Enhanced Learning Grant, it was decided to put the money towards experimenting with heart rate monitors. We thought that if the girls could actually “see” what they are doing while they are doing it, it might give them more of a purpose to a regular gym class.
In my teaching practice, I have always told my students “there is a purpose behind everything we do.”
Using the heart rate monitors has helped my students go beyond “just playing badminton” to understanding the benefits of working in your target heart rate range and becoming more accountable for their activity. Therefore, establishing a higher level of reasoning behind our 3 hours a week together. They are able to determine how hard they worked. Did they work close to their target and for how long? Did they not reach it and if not, why? What are the differences in their heart rate when doing different activities? There are so many more factors to it that myself and my girls are excited to explore. Since we have been using the Wahoo Fitness Heart Rate monitors I have noticed a huge difference in student engagement and personal interest in what they are doing. Just having them be more aware of the quality of work they are doing in a class has made world of difference. With the numbers right in front of them they can see if their heart rate is getting too low and some just continue to run on the spot during instructions or even run laps in the gym while waiting their turn for a certain activity. It has been so fabulous to see this happen in class. Thank you so much to Wahoo for helping me expand my practice and give the girls something new and exciting to keep them motivated. I am beyond grateful for the TICKR and how it has changed my classes and so are my students.
Photo from Instagram: @oakbaker
My experience with the heart rate monitor exceeded my expectations. As a teen, we don’t generally think of gym class as an exciting way to burn calories but now that’s not the case. Using the heart rate monitor showed me my exercise pattern at the end of my gym class. Because of that, I am able to look at my maximum heart rate and how long I worked in my target range for. I can then use this information to work harder next time to see if I can do better. I play various sports and the fact that the monitor was able to track each and every one of them accurately is so impressive. Ever since I started using the monitor in class I have been putting much more effort into making my workouts harder and therefore more successful.
I love using the Wahoo Fitness Heart Rate Monitor because I like knowing how long I am active for each time I exercise. I also like seeing my heart rate levels as well as how many calories I am burning. I have the option to use the heart rate monitor in my PE class and I choose to wear one as frequently as I can. The monitors are a great way to push you to do better. I like how it is a new way of showing us our progress throughout the year.
I love using the heart rate monitors as part of my exercise routine at school. I truly believe that they encourage motivation and success when working out. It feels so rewarding knowing exactly how much work I have done. Being able to track my progress is something that is really beneficial because I can watch my body transform as I am making progress.
In our PE class we use the heart rate monitors as a tool to track our improvements. It really makes a huge improvement when you wear it because when you do your brain tells your body to work harder so the best results are shown to you and the class. I have learned that it takes quite a long time to reach a target heart rate if the sport is something quite basic or if you do not work for a long period of time. I really enjoyed wearing the monitor at the Halloween dance. I did not stop for 3 hours and reached 209bpm at one point!
Learn more: TICKR Heart Rate Monitors