For nearly a decade, George Velarde’s innovative fitness programs at Sierra Vista Junior High School have challenged our old-school philosophy on physical education.
Under his “New P.E. Philosophy,” the teacher incorporates technological advancements with educational gaming, simultaneously boosting fitness and Academic Performance Index ratings.
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Intrigued, legislators on Capitol Hill invited Velarde to speak to Congress last week, educating them on his Sierra Vista program and how the school has utilized grant money awarded in 2008.
“They said, ‘We’ve given out these grants since 2002. From the data that you have collected and all the information you’ve provided for us, you’re grant by far has been the most successful,’” Velarde said.
Already recognized by the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports as a national demonstration center, the prestige has drawn the interest of North Korea, South Korea, China and Canada, with dignitaries from each country visiting Sierra Vista in the past 12 months.
“We had a plan from day one how we’re going to implement all these different programs into our Sierra Vista program,” he said.
Part of that plan includes the utilization of heart rate monitors, which students wear while performing a mix of activities.
“There were many questions Congress asked, but the one issue they focused on was assessment. How do we assess? I explained to them that at Sierra Vista we assess by using heart rate monitors for cardiovascular assessment,” said Velarde. “I explained to them that it’s no longer subjective grading, it’s objective grading.”
In Washington, Velarde also stressed exercise how can increase academic performance if synced properly.
“While our classes are exercising in our fitness center, students are able to watch three giant screens, reviewing for benchmark tests, vocabulary and other key concepts while exercising.
“I gave them full detail of how our program looks and feels. It was definitely the highlight of my career.”