With the help of a TCU professor, video games are now a part of gym class in the Fort Worth Independent School District.Students in FWISD physical education classes are exercising to Dance Dance Revolution and a similar game called GeoMotion, in which students stomp their feet on pressure-sensitive mats while following the dance moves shown on a TV screen.
The new addition to P.E. class is part of a research project conducted by Debbie Rhea, an associate professor of kinesiology. Rhea applied for and received a federal grant for $873,000 over a three-year period to redevelop the FWISD P.E. system.
Rhea said the grant is funding a new class that meets federal recommendations. She said the FWISD previously had no curriculum that was comparable to the government’s standard.
“Before, you would walk in and see kids just standing around all period,” Rhea said. “A lot of that is because they were only doing sports as physical activity. We need to start teaching kids that activity is not about running and playing basketball. It’s about getting up, and it’s about moving and getting your heart rate up.”
Part of the three-year plan includes health and fitness centers at the high schools.
Rhea said a fitness center has been put into each of the 16 high schools, and those that didn’t have room received portable centers. The centers include treadmills, elliptical trainers, Dance Dance Revolution and game bikes, to name a few.
Rhea said the game bikes and Dance Dance Revolution are the most popular.
Game bikes are exercise bikes in which students can plug game cartridges in and ride courses, like those in a racing video game.
Shawn Kornegay, assistant director of communications, said Rhea and TCU have been working on the grant and program for a number of years.
“It’s been very successful.” Rhea said. “It has totally revamped and reformulated physical education in the Fort Worth ISD.”
Rhea said the program encourages students not only to exercise, but also to be cognitive of exercise.
In the personal foundations class, students learn why exercise is important, how to put a workout together and how to balance cardiovascular workouts and strength training, Rhea said. They also wear heart-rate monitors to track their results.
Kathie Eddleman, the P.E. department grant coordinator for Paschal High School, said high school students are supportive of the new programs.
“They’re loving it,” Eddleman said. “The reports we’ve gotten back from the teachers have all said how much fun it’s been. We’ve even had students come in on their own time and help set up the games.”
Rhea said she hopes the program will discourage a sedentary lifestyle that promotes obesity.
“Sitting all the time is what’s creating obesity,” Rhea said. . “We sit in front of the computer and TV. We don’t even have to get up to get a phone number anymore, we just look at it in our cell phones.”
Rhea said students should start incorporating exercise into their daily routine at an early age.
“This way, they get into the habit now and (they) won’t have to look back someday and say, ‘Gosh, I wish I would have done this 20 years ago,’ ” she said.