At Salem Woods Elementary, one PE teacher is shaking things up, getting students off the couch and onto the playground with her own twist on the popular Gear up and Go! program. Her strategy is simple: encourage students to be active in more aspects of their lives and share in their successes. Thanks to her efforts, Salem Woods’ students are playing and moving more to accrue points for the Gear Up & Go! digital game.
Salem Woods joined Gear Up & Go! in October of 2013 and has distinguished itself as one of the most active schools in the county participating in the program. Studies show that physical activity levels drop significantly during the fifth grade year. Gear Up & Go!’s aim is to reverse that trend. Ely is one of the teachers leading the way.
Gear Up & Go! is a countywide initiative created by the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition. The Coalition’s goal is to encourage healthy habits among fifth grade students and to reverse a decline in healthy youth activity by coupling fitness with innovative technology that engages and entertains fifth graders. Fifth graders participating in Gear Up & Go! have access to the Snohomish County YMCAs, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County and the Lynnwood Recreational Center. Nearly 10,000 students and faculty are using the technology, earning points and staying active.
Sandie Ely has three fifth grade classes at Salem Woods and has been working in the Monroe School District since 2004. TheGear Up & Go! activity monitors, worn like watches by participating fifth graders, are one tool she’s using to get her students more active. She wears one too, as do the playground volunteers and even some parents.
“Overall it’s working,” Ely said. “Some students are using the technology and losing weight.”
To keep students engaged in the program, Gear Up & Go! has implemented winter and spring school match ups.
This winter’s eight-week program, which launched February 24, had schools competing to see how many students sync, how many points they earn and how many are increasing their activity week over week. And in those eight weeks, the Salem Woods students went undefeated for all eight match ups, earning more than 67 million points, which equates to more than 22 million steps travelled.
Spring matchups are currently underway. Ely was quick to utilize the school matchups as a way to motivate her students. She has created weekly raffles with prizes that include Nerf footballs and Subway gift cards. Raffle tickets are awarded to students who make an effort to move more.
“It’s not just about who can make the most baskets or run the longest. It’s about effort, and the biggest reward for me is seeing kids try,” said Ely.
“In the end, that’s what this program is about,” said Scott Forslund, executive director of the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition which sponsors the program. “It’s about finding creative ways to change the conversation and to make movement and physical activity a positive thing in these kids’ lives.”