Signs Point to Exercise

A local school goes high-tech to create new methods to get students moving

May 1, 2012

Students at Chesterbrook Elementary School in McLean, Va., can use iPads and other mobile devices to scan QR codes along a trail to access exercise video clips.

At Chesterbrook Elementary, gym-class technology has advanced far beyond the bouncy red ball. When students at the McLean, Va., school show up for P.E., they’re handed iPads and iPod Touches. The devices let them scan Quick Response (QR) codes — black-and-white boxes — on signs scattered along a quarter-mile path that loops around the playground. The codes trigger videos showing them how to perform exercises.

“We were thinking of ways we could beef up the experience outside,” says Robert Fuqua, principal of Chesterbrook (1753 Kirby Rd.), which has latched onto the idea of using QR codes for all kinds of educational purposes. For example, the school puts them under student artwork in the hallways so passersby can learn about the artists’ inspiration.

P.E. teacher Jay Levesque and school-based technology specialist Kurt Kohls were brainstorming ideas a few years ago and came up with the concept of a developing a fitness trail using the codes. After securing the funding and creating 20 minute-long video segments starring Levesque and fellow P.E. teacher Bethany Brooks, the trail was unveiled in March.

On each of the five signs, codes are broken into a set of four for laptop and Apple products and four for BlackBerrys and Androids, Kohls says. Codes in red boxes work the upper body, yellow tackle flexibility, green the lower body and blue the core.

Each clip includes a description of the exercise followed by a demonstration. Some are straightforward moves such as planks, squats, lunges and arm circles. Others require a bit more explanation, such as the set of crossover push-ups. (Do a push-up, cross one hand over the other, then move the bottom hand out to the side and do another push-up, so you’re traveling in a circle.) A student favorite is “the bobblehead” — do a wide squat and rapidly bobble your head.

Levesque and Brooks, who chose the exercises for the clips based on what they’ve had students do during class, take advantage of the surroundings, so they demo dips on the playground equipment and push-ups off trees.

The kids haven’t had any trouble adjusting to the high-tech circuit training, says Levesque, who hopes the effort will make exercise more appealing to the children who aren’t typically as interested in P.E. “All of a sudden you tell them, ‘Here’s an iPod, here’s an iPad,’ and that student who might not shine when it comes to basketball skills, they’re going to shine using the iPad,” Levesque says.

And they can shine long after class is over. Anyone with a mobile device is welcome to visit the trail during non-school hours. “We’re trying to give students and the community opportunities for wellness all the time,” Levesque says.

Just remember that these videos are targeted to kids, so if you’re a grown-up, you may need to work a little bit harder. “If adults are going to be using them and can get through one set, they’d probably want to amp up to three,” Levesque says.

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