Waterdown District High School levels the playing field
for all students in H&PE.

“The big change that I’ve noticed with this program and the use of heart rate monitors with the charts is a self esteem boost for the students who are not into team sports.”

~ Tim Harvey, Health and Physical Educator, Waterdown DHS

Jeannine MacIsaac and Tim Harvey are running an innovative H&PE program at Waterdown DHS to help more students succeed. By 8:00 am, students are in the gym and ready to go with their heart rate monitors. They’re moving to get their heart rates in their target zone for at least 20 minutes before they go to math class.

Teacher and advocoate Cindy Myers shared Dr. John Ratey’s book, SPARK, with school Principal, Michelle Visca, who realized this pilot program with the support of her school.

“What was new about the program was that it focused on the heart rate,” said Visca. “The other piece that I really valued was that student success in physical education was not based on physical ability but by their effort.”

Jeannine and Tim are team-teaching the grade nine boys and girls program. Students come in, set up functional fitness circuits and get moving. The music is pumping and they rotate through the stations taking periodic breaks to check their heart rates on iPads to make sure “they’re in the zone” for 20 minutes or more.

MacIsaac and Harvey mix it up with circuits, games and sports to motivate students to keep moving. “A lot of the time we do circuits with the Functional Fitness Charts,” said MacIsaac. “Students set up the charts as a group. They know how to modify them to make them harder and make sure they’re working the whole body.”

Cindy Myers said the best response was seeing the beaming smile of a student who they would typically question as “working below required intensity” for benefits. “We displayed one student’s heart rate monitor data during a presentation to our parents,” said Cindy. “Though she considered herself unathletic and unfit it showed her to be consistently working at the highest intensity in her target heart rate zone and showing her effort level to be tops in the class.”

The team including math and English teachers collaborated to implement this program and measure its success with a group of grade nine students. They're collecting a variety of data with the help of board psychology and research consultants.

“It’s more fun to do Phys. Ed. now. The charts give an illustration of what you’re supposed to do and how to modify it.”

~ Hanna Hertel, Grade 9 student

Measuring Success

Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is measuring the success of the program on various fronts including, fitness, executive functioning, academics and attitudes towards activity.

“We’re doing Woodcock- Johnson tests in areas of academic achievement including reading fluency, calculation, math fluency and writing fluency,“said Trisha Woehrle, Teacher Research Consultant for HWDSB.

Jeannine and Tim are collecting measurements for full body assessments including muscular endurance, muscular power, cardiovascular fitness, agility, grip strength and flexibility.

They’re also collecting students’ EQAO assessments in grade nine and OSSLT in grade ten. “We really want to see if the program is making a difference compared to the grade nine group that didn’t have this last year,”added Woehrle, who is working with the school Psychology Consultant, Dr. Linda Hall, to interpret the data.

Best Practices

Educators are visiting from all over to see Waterdown’s fitness-based PE program in action. “People are interested in how it works,” said MacIsaac. “We’re really at the grassroots of this program in Canada.”

MacIsaac added there’s a similar program in Barrie and she'd like to get out there to see if there’s anything they can implement at Waterdown.

Confidence Boost

There's considerable anecdotal data in favour of this program, especially with respect to boosting self-esteem.

According to Tim Harvey, parents have noticed changes in the amount of energy their children have and their attitudes towards obstacles.

“I’ve noticed them talking about their mental health,” said Jeannine. “They have better self-esteem and they can meet challenges easier.”

“We’ve got these kids working so hard and they’re actually having fun."

~ Jeannine MacIsaac, Head of Girls H&PE, Waterdown DHS