Students Train Teachers for Exercise Science Project
It’s not often that you see teachers working out in a weight room, coached by students who are pushing them to their limits. But that’s exactly what took place in Mr. Charles Rizzuto’s Exercise Science and Injury Prevention and Management course at Oyster Bay High School.
Educators volunteered to take part in a project that teaches students how to develop an effective fitness plan by infusing what they learned in class and applying it to a real-world experience.
Paired with a teacher, students first conducted interviews to determine their teacher’s fitness level and fitness goals, taking into consideration any injuries or medical issues. Then during the next four or five classes, they created a fitness plan, consisting of four exercises or mini circuits, based on what their teacher expressed in the interview, while staying within certain guidelines. The exercises had to be unique, creative and non-traditional — not ones they could Google. They had to overlap both health-related and skill-related fitness components, and machines, such as treadmills, ellipticals or bicycles, were off limits.
“Some examples of health-related fitness components are cardiovascular and respiratory endurance, and some skill-related components include balance, coordination and power,” Mr. Rizzuto explained. “Students also applied what they learned about the SPORTFITT model, a guideline on how to develop a fitness routine. It’s an acronym for ‘specificity, progression, overload, reversibility, tedium (principals of training), frequency, intensity, time and type’.”
Energy levels were high in the weight room as students coached their teachers through their custom fitness routines, encouraging them as much as they could along the way. Senior Katie Moore — who developed a fitness plan for physical education teacher Ms. Victoria Wink focusing on cardiovascular and endurance — said, “We did the battle ropes for cardio because of the constant movement of arms while squatting, which got her high on the scale. We also did kettlebell swings, which is cardio but also builds up muscle in your legs and wrists. She had to swing the bell in between her legs and catch it with the opposing hand and keep going back and forth. We did that with a 10 pound weight and a 15 pound weight in a minute and thirty seconds, until she was high on the scale.”
The Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (RPE) goes from 1-10, based on how you are feeling during a specific activity, “1” being very light activity such as anything other than sleeping, watching TV or riding in a car, to “10,” being maximum effort activity, where you feel as though it is almost impossible to keep going; you’re completely out of breath and unable to talk.
“Katie did an awesome job with my routine,” Ms. Wink said. “She came to me a few times to make sure she was tailoring the routine to my needs and to see if I was high on the scale. Then she would bring my heart rate down, based on how I was feeling on the scale.”
Senior Maggie Ford worked with Principal Ms. Sharon Lasher who wanted to concentrate on balance and weight loss. “For weight loss we had to keep her on the RPE scale and with balance we worked on centering,” Maggie explained. “I instructed her to go on a step and then I threw her a ball in different directions. She had to catch it with both hands and balance herself on the step, and we did that faster and faster. We did a lot of core work, gluts and abs, because those are the center of balance,” she said. Senior Robert Zahradnik, who trained Assistant Principal Dr. Peter Rufa, said, “from the interview, I determined that he is in good shape so I decided to push his limits a little bit by motivating him to get him fired up. Overall I pushed him to the edge and gave him a great workout and that was my goal.”
As a follow-up, teachers filled out a Google form to determine if the students were motivational, if they engaged with them, if they explained things well, if they could clearly see their goals present in the fitness plan the students created for them and if it was unique.
“All the learning that takes place teaches students how to create a fitness routine for themselves and how to analyze what they need by creating something for someone else,” Mr. Rizzuto said. “Some students might be thinking of pursuing this as a career path and now they are getting practical experience as a trainer.”
Maggie, a two-season athlete, said, “I plan on playing sports in college so I can train myself based on the information I learned in class.”
Katie, a three-season athlete, said, “I feel I learned how to cater a fitness routine to my needs. For example for softball, if I want to focus on turning my body when I swing I would work on activities that work on my core, so I use that information to reach my goals. I love sports, and keeping healthy, it’s a big part of my life.”
Students began learning about different muscle groups, where they are located and what their actions are the first week of school. One of the first trips the class takes is to the Waterfront Center. They go kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding and while they are down there, they are encouraged to pay close attention to what muscle groups they are using, their balance and coordination, and their breathing while participating in those activities. Mr. Rizzuto discusses lactic acid, cardiac output and stroke volume and how our bodies respond to exercise. Other field trips have included meeting with the strength and conditioning coach of the New York Islanders for advice on developing fitness plans, going to Adelphi University’s exercise science lab and participating in tests such as a VO2 Max Test, which measures the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use while training at a maximum workload, and the Hydrostatic Way Test, where your body composition is measured while being immersed in water; and going to Sky Zone where trampoline fitness is explored.
Students and teachers have been participating in the exercise science project for about five years. The course is open to grades 11 and 12 and satisfies a physical education requirement. Students have the option of taking the course for college credit through Adelphi University and receive three credits upon satisfactory completion of the course.