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21st-century sight to see combines gym with technology

Two schools on California Navy base build "fitness zones" with high-tech activities
  • R.J. Neutra Elementary School students play Dance Dance Revolution on individual mats during physical education classes.
  • Students hit lights on the SMART Trainer wall using their entire body.
  •  In the Makoto Arena, students can use their hands, beanbags, medicine balls and more to hit light patterns that appear on the three towers.
  • R.J. Neutra Elementary students play an interactive, virtual skiing game through an Xbox during a physical education class.
  • Admiral Akers Elementary School students play Dance Dance Revolution.
  • A physical education teacher at Admiral Akers Elementary shows students how to navigate a virtual river on a raft, using just their body and a controller.

Students at Central Union Elementary School District, located on a military base in Lemoore, Calif., are using 21st-century technology in an unexpected place: gym class.

Last fall, the district was awarded a three-year Department of Defense Education Activity grant for more than $680,000 to improve physical education and enhance parent, family and community engagement at two schools located on Naval Air Station Lemoore in California’s Central Valley. The schools, Admiral Akers Elementary and R.J. Neutra Elementary, are National Blue Ribbon institutions.

This year, both schools built “fitness zones,” complete with games such as Dance Dance Revolution and SMART Trainers, in which students hit a wall of illuminated moving targets with hands, feet, beanbags or sports balls. There is also a Makoto Arena, in which students are surrounded by three tower-like structures and use their entire body to hit random light patterns on the towers.

“These interactive, multi-functional systems engage users’ bodies and brains with a wide variety of games using auditory and visual cues,” says Elizabethe Lozano, the district’s grant director and assistant superintendent of educational services and human resources. “For those who do not believe technology can be connected to exercise and movement this is a sight to see.”

Students use the equipment during physical education classes and after school on Fridays. Next year, each school will provide family fitness classes, including Zumba dance class and bike safety. A Wellness Committee created this spring will assist each school in planning health seminars for parents and community members.