Students in Carl Ekern’s physical education classes at the La Crescent-Hokah Elementary School are learning firsthand how to get their hearts working healthily, thanks to a recently acquired set of wristband heart monitors.

“What I really like about it, is that it tells them what’s going on in their heart,” said Ekern of the newly acquired monitors. “We’re trying to teach them what active exercise is and what moderately active exercise is, and they’re able to see the difference in their own bodies.”

The monitors provide students’ with their pulse, minimum and maximum heart rates, as well as telling them what fitness zone they’re in, said Ekern.

“So if we want to get to that red zone we’re shooting for, we gotta do some running first,” Ekern explained to students in his adaptive phys ed class, referring to the healthy fitness zone.

Ekern said his students are still getting familiarized with the monitors after being introduced to them in October, and he uses them with classes about every other week.

The bands are strapped by Velcro on either the forearm or bicep. Wrist monitors are conveniently applied to the arm, avoiding the discomfort and required undressing that came with previous models that strapped across the chest.

Students in class with Ekern learn how each student has their own set of unique fitness levels depending on the shape they are in, said Ekern, meaning that a more physically fit student would need to work significantly harder to reach the same fitness level as a student that rarely exercises. Ekern said the option to share students’ performance reports with their parents can be done directly through the app that records the monitor readings.

Ekern said he uses the bands with his adaptive PE students regularly as well, and likes how he’s able to provide more individualized feedback to each student. The monitors also allow Ekern to put more practical cardiovascular goals into Individualized Education Programs for students, he said.

“That’s the really cool part about it, is the ability to personalize things for the kids,” said Ludwigson. “So they can work towards their own goals while being engaged in the same activities.”

Jason Ludwigson, who manages technology integration for the district, learned about the heart monitors last spring at education technology conference in Minneapolis called TIES.

“I thought this is a really great technology integration tool,” said Ludwigson of the monitors. “It connects with science, reading and math and brings it all in to phy-ed.”

Ludwigson said that Ekern showed immediate interest in the monitors after he presented the idea to staff, and so far is the only teacher to attain a set. A set includes 15 heart monitor bands, a wireless connector and charging station, and costs around $3000.

Funding for the heart monitors came from a mix of district funds and outside donations, including from the American Heart Association and Pepsi, said Ekern. Ekern said he was aided in the project by Business Manager Sandy Strozyk who helped tie all the funding sources together.