By Sue Loubser, Director of Technology at Greenfield Hebrew Academy
This year at the Greenfield Hebrew Academy middle school in Atlanta, Georgia, we are taking on a very exciting project. We have 126 middle school students and 25 teachers wearing Zamzee meters all year as part of a school-wide project to jumpstart physical activity. We’ll be incorporating the data we collect from our Zamzees into our school curriculum to teach statistics, the Scientific Method and to even discuss contemporary applications of Jewish teachings. We call this project “A Million Minutes of Activity.”
The idea for A Million Minutes of Activity began brewing in my head last year. At the 2011 ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference, Dr. John Medina gave the keynote address called “Brain Rules for Education.” One of the things that he said – which stuck with me – was that exercise improves executive function in students, and can help students increase test scores. It needs to be cardiovascular exercise – and the effects can last into adulthood. In fact, this is Dr. John Medina’s “Brain Rule #1.” He lamented the fact that schools cut down on P.E. even though the benefits of exercise is proven.
Then, in November last year, I went to a presentation by Barry Joseph from Global Kids, who talked about badging systems. He whipped a Zamzee from his pocket as an example of a site that was both cool – and used badging to recognize milestones – and explained that he and his son were exercising together and that he was being motivated by the meter! I put two and two together and came up with the idea for “A Million Minutes of Activity.”
Our project is a cross curriculum Middle School project. Our primary goal is realistic – together we will try to be active for one million minutes. We believe having a common goal will help unite our students and will increase school spirit.
We have a number of other objectives too. Firstly, we do want our students to exercise more. We care about exercise because of its health benefits and its benefits to the brain. At our school we study ‘Habits of Mind.’ We learn about persistence and we learn that it takes repetition for something to become a habit. We want exercise to be a habit.
We also plan to use the authentic data which we will be receiving from Zamzee.com in Math classes, in our statistics units. Our teachers will use our data to teach averages, mean, mode and more. Students will learn to use Excel as they calculate our goals, and check each week to see our progress. We will interpret the data we receive to see what conclusions we can draw. Each grade level will work on their own data, as well as viewing the middle school data in different combinations.
In Science, students will use the project to further their understanding of the scientific method. Do boys exercise more than girls? Do 8th graders exercise more than 5th graders? Do students exercise more than teachers? (Yes, all Middle School teachers have Zamzee meters too – and they are part of Team GHA – as we work towards our ‘million minutes’ goal).
Language Arts teachers have plans for letter writing, poetry and blogs; Hebrew teachers are developing vocab units and our Judaic teachers are discussing whether or not the Zamzee meters are considered ‘muksa’ and should be prohibited on the Sabbath.
Of course our Physical Education and Health teachers are playing a major role. They will ‘drive’ the project. Zamzee levels will be used as a component on our annual fitness test, and healthy eating and exercise will play an increased role in their curriculum.
We distributed meters to our teachers a couple of weeks ago – and they are wildly excited. Last Friday, we shared the project with the students and their parents. This led to a slew of positive comments from parents, and cheering from the students.
We have lots of exciting projects lined up to retain our student’s enthusiasm for the project. Our students will be blogging about their experiences through the duration of the project. We have set up a blog for each grade level – and we have set up a twitter account (@GHAminutez) – so we can share the excitement. We invite you to follow along each class on our blogs:
Our Middle School team is going to hop, jump, skip, walk and run as we work towards reaching our Million Minutes of Activity goal!