Monday, June 28, 2010

PEP Grant Success Story: Implementing Exergaming

With 18+ years as a physical education teacher and 5+ years as a grant facilitator, Marvin Christley is leading the way to keeping kids active, healthy and fit by introducing a new PE concept called Exergaming. New Haven (CT) Public School’s PE department received approximately 1.5 million dollars over three years from the Carol M. White PEP Grant, to help aid in reducing childhood obesity by increasing movement time. Below is Marvin’s new concept and a interview on his mission to keeping kids in Connecticut healthy and active while attending school.

I came up the concept for the grant when I first saw this type of equipment at a National convention. Being a gamer myself, I thought this would be a great way to motivate the students who are inactive to exercise. Two of the biggest markets are Wellness and Videogames. The problem today is that with video games, students are becoming less active. In order to combat the increase in childhood obesity I thought Exergaming. Exergaming combines video games with exercise. This won’t solve the problem but it will bridge the gap. The Wii first took off with this type of technology, and now more and more companies are jumping on board.

I created a program to reduce childhood obesity called T.H.A.N.C.S. THANCS stands for Teaching Health and Nutrition Choices to Students. This program was made possible because a very generous PEP grant. The New Haven PE department received about 1.5 million dollars over three years, to help aid in reducing childhood obesity by increasing movement time. Currently we have about 15 elementary – middle schools, up and running with more to come.

The program uses innovative technology to better assess our students and to motivate them to exercise. Some of the assessment technologies that are being utilized are: Heart rate monitors, TriFit machine, Pedometers and handheld palm pilots. Exergaming equipment was also purchased through the grant which includes: Dance, Dance Revolution, Lightspace Play Floor, Gamebikes, Nintendo Wii’s, and Xavix’s. This year we also purchased a cross curricular exercise bike called “The NeuroActive BrainBike by Motion Fitness”. This piece allows you to exercise while playing brain games that include math, memory and other cognitive thinking games. The games are a lot like the questions students would see on the Connecticut Mastery Tests. There has not been one principal who this doesn’t think this is the best piece of exercise equipment. We have also created journals in order for students to track of their own fitness.

Tell us about how you obtained this grant? What is the purpose of it?
MC: My supervisor asked me to facilitate a grant we had already acquired. It was a small grant and only included a couple of schools. The vendor and I decided that if I spent some money on them they would assist with the writing a larger grant. The purpose of this grant was to use technology to better assess our students fitness levels. In addition, I had an idea to use the exercise gaming technology to motivate students to be more active. The goal is to put this type of technology in our elementary and middle schools.

When is this initiative being launched?
MC: I have already began this initiative and I am now in the second year of my three year grant.

When did you first hear about Exergaming and why did you choose to implement the products in your school district?
MC: I first learned about Exergaming at a national conference. I thought it would be great in my school district because the majority of our students are not motivated to be active. Students would always talk about various video games and were not physical active. I thought this would be a great way to bridge the game between video games and inactivity.

What products did you get and how come you chose those particular items?
MC: Some of the items that all of the schools received were Gamebikes, Dance Dance Revolution, and Xavix. Some schools received Expresso bikes, NeuroActive BrainBikes, iJoy Boards and Wiis. A couple of larger items were purchased to show the future of Exergaming. These items are Dogfight and Lightspace play. The reason I selected these items is because they seemed to be the most fun and give the students a maximum workout.

How many Schools are benefiting from your accomplishments?
MC: Currently I have been able to outfit fifteen schools with exergaming equipment. We are planning to add several more schools in the future. Phase one is the impact the elementary and middle schools and phase two is to create the same type of programs in the high schools.

What do you see as the benefits of Exergaming for your students?
MC: The main benefit of Exergaming is the sustained level of moderate to vigorous physical activity. To give you an example, one school had a class of 40 plus kids that refused to do anything aerobic in physical education class. After the introduction to exergaming equipment, you have to beg them to stop. It is clearly a way for kids to have more fun while exercising.

Special thanks to Exergame Fitness for sharing this article. The full article, including information on Exergame Fitness, can be found here.

Marvin Christley and representatives from New Haven Public Schools participated in a PE4life workshop.


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