"We started in November, recalled physical education teacher Sandy Hopkins, and very soon many students and their parents were asking me about it. Later, when my students reflected about the activities in writing, their comments were all on the line of, It was so fun, I did not even know I was even working out,
What is causing the renewed interest in Hopkins' classes? Electronic games! The one-time archenemies of physical fitness, today's high-tech game systems actually can get kids excited about physical activity.
Hopkins first discovered the games use in physical education programs through published articles, but what convinced her to bring the games into her classes was watching her own son and his friends -- who are about five years older than her students -- play the games at home.
"I noticed how much my son and his friends enjoyed the games and how much physical exercise they were getting," Hopkins told Education World. "I thought the games were something my students would enjoy too, so I started pursuing grants to pay for them."
Today, thanks to a grant from an educational foundation at her school that supports innovative teaching ideas in the classroom, Hopkins' students play their way to physical fitness with "Dance, Dance, Revolution" and "EyeToy" for Sony's PlayStation 2.
Hopkins operates the games as a station, with 3-4 screens and dance mats. Six students typically use the station at one time, and those who are waiting to play use practice dance mats she has created out of carpets and tape. Jump ropes or stationary bikes are sometimes provided at the station as well. Every student is expected to remain active during the entire period.
Delaware Trail Elementary also uses the games for behavioral rewards with students. If selected students from the Brownsburg, Indiana, school have a good day or week, they may have dance or play time with the systems, which is supervised by the school counselor.
"Once I started, I found these systems easy to facilitate," reported Hopkins. "Of course, the younger the students, the more you have to help. The kiddos loved the activities and were excited when they saw the games. I was most surprised by how much the underactive students and those not so easily motivated loved the games." That is evident when Hopkins' less physically active students take positions at the game stations, sweat, and enjoy themselves so much they are reluctant to leave the activities.
With "Dance, Dance, Revolution," Hopkins selects the workout mode and chooses a song for her students. Hopkins recommends the Disney Channel edition of the game because it is age appropriate, and her students respond favorably to the songs and characters. Hopkins currently is investigating the benefits of the Nintendo WII, which wasn't available at the time of her initial purchase.
"Be patient and try the systems at home first to get accustomed to them," she advises oth