BAR HARBOR — Every student in the middle school grades at the Mount Desert Island and Trenton schools soon will wear a heart rate monitor in their physical education class, if they don’t have them already.
“The kids wear them throughout class, and all the data comes into an iPad that I can put up on a screen so the kids can see what their heart rates are,” said Justin Norwood, PE teacher and athletic director at Mount Desert Elementary School. “That’s really important when you’re talking about activity and fitness.
“You might think you’re working hard, but then you look at your heart rate and see that it’s not that high. I’ve had a bunch of kids tell me, ‘This is really motivating,’ or ‘I’m working way harder in class now that I can see what my body is doing.’”
Norwood led the effort by the PE teachers in the five schools to acquire the heart rate monitors. He negotiated a discounted price with Polar, a company that makes the monitors, and he applied for and received a $5,000 grant from the MDI Educational Enhancement Fund.
That grant paid for 13 monitors for each school plus training for the teachers. Then each teacher secured additional funds from sources such as their parent-teacher organization. MDES received a supplemental Astor grant from the Maine Community Foundation.
The five schools were able to order a total of 106 heart rate monitors, enough for every middle school student in each PE class. Conners Emerson School and MDES each got 25, Pemetic Elementary got 20, and Tremont Consolidated School and Trenton Elementary each got 18.
Norwood noted that PE classes at MDI High School have used heart rate monitors for a number of years.
“Now, our middle school kids will have a better idea of what to expect when they get to high school,” he said.
“At the end of class, I can show each kid how many calories they burned during and what their heart rate was up to, because there’s a read-out for each student.”
Norwood said Julie Meltzer, the school system’s director of curriculum, assessment and instruction, was extremely helpful in securing funding for the heart rate monitors.
Meltzer, in turn, said she was “thrilled with Justin’s leadership” and the enthusiastic buy-in of all the PE teachers.
“We didn’t want any school to get left out,” she said. “Now, kids in all of the schools are going to have this as part of their program. It will help them with goal setting and in becoming more self-aware about wellness.”