By Sue Loubser, Director of Technology at Greenfield Hebrew Academy
Our year is over and we reached our goal of A Million Minutes of Activity! We never doubted we would, although we did learn a few lessons as the year progressed.
When we launched the program last September, the school was abuzz. Our head of school recalls that “kids went home and were jumping around during dinner and running around in place as friends talked to them. Children who ordinarily couldn’t easily wake up in the morning or had to be dragged out of bed suddenly popped out with great enthusiasm and energy to maximize their minutes.” Parents were amazed by the changes in their kids’ behaviors.
Although this was launched as a Middle School project – there was so much interest from younger students that our PTSA started selling Zamzee meters. They sold 50 in short order and it felt like everyone was being active!
We held a lot of competitions during the year to keep students motivated. Originally our goal was to mandate the wearing of Zamzees as part of our PE program, but mid-year we took that requirement away. That meant we had to help the kids stay motivated to keep using Zamzee.
Students could win gift cards, T-shirts, chocolates (from Israel), drinks, baseball caps and even an iPod in random drawings or as rewards for exercising over a certain number of minutes. We were also given 20 pairs of Braves tickets to give to students who met a goal for exercising. We had random reward days where if you uploaded during the day, you received a treat (which could be a Zamzee flashlight or a skin) or even a surprise recess. This helped to keep students engaged in the project, especially our 8th graders, who became less interested in Zamzee as the year progressed.
About halfway through the year, our teachers discovered ‘Zamz’ and ‘rewards’ and that brought a new infusion of life into the project as they worked to earn their Amazon gift cards. Their enthusiasm spread to the students, which resulted in a renewed level of activity – and lots and lots of challenges.
By December we knew we had to earn 100,000 minutes a month – and we worked diligently to achieve it. We used the data we downloaded from Zamzee in our math classes – and our students created histograms, bar graphs and predictions based on the real-world data.
It was only much later in the year that our PTSA helped us buy “shoe pockets” which helped students protect their meters and keep them safe – and our core of year-long ‘Zamzee-rs’ appreciated how much easier it was to remember their meters when they had the shoe pocket as a permanent reminder on their shoe.
Based on the success of the program, we will be continuing it next year, but in a slightly different way. We will run the program formally with rising 5th graders – students who already have meters are welcome to use them, but they will not be included in our activity goal. We will ask the students to set their own group goal for the year, and the project will be a formal part of the PE program. We will also provide the students with shoe pockets to help them keep their Zamzees in a safe place and to help to protect them.
We judged the program as a definite ‘win.’ Even students who did not increase their amount of exercise were more aware of how much (and how little) they moved – and the awareness itself was important. It was a segue into conversations about health and nutrition, and it kept the focus on the importance of a healthy lifestyle every single day.
The Zamzee program was definitely a highlight and signature event of our school year!