Port Angeles fifth-graders using new technology in physical activity program

Sqords, activity tracking devices similar to a Fitbit, went to each of the 350 students who opted into the voluntary program.


Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles fifth-graders on Monday got their hands on new technology designed to get them off the couch and to track their physical activity.

The district handed out Sqords, activity tracking devices similar to a Fitbit, to each of the approximately 350 fifth-grade students in the district who opted into the voluntary program.

Through physical activity, students will gain points that can be used in the Sqord app and as bragging rights.

“Any time you can get kids excited about doing something that’s going to help them with their health, it’s going to make them better kids in the classroom and better people in the community,” said Chuck Lisk, the district’s assistant superintendent.

“If at fifth grade we can get them thinking about being active and moving and not sitting on the couch, it’s going to be a complete positive.”

During the kick-off event Monday at Roosevelt Elementary School, students from each of the district’s five elementary schools were giddy with excitement to try out their new devices.

Sqord Co-Founder Coleman Greene led the youngsters in short exercises to get them started on Sqord. They ran in place, did jumping jacks and some did pushups.

During the event, Lisk offered a challenge to all the fifth-grade students.

If 100 percent of the fifth-graders at their school returned today registered for the Sqord app, Lisk would personally make sure their class got two extra recesses — another opportunity to earn points with Sqord.

“These kids are going to do it to earn points, have some competition or just challenge themselves,” Lisk said.

Greene said Sqord doesn’t just track steps; it also tracks intensity and duration of exercises.

The devices are waterproof and come with nine-month batteries, allowing the students to take them pretty much anywhere without worry, he said.

P.E. teachers were given iPads that the students’ Sqords will sync to, allowing the school to track their activity.

The school district partnered with Olympic Medical Center to provide the devices.

OMC’s goal is to distribute the devices to each of the fifth-grade students in the hospital’s district, which includes Port Angeles, Crescent and Sequim schools.

OMC paid for the Sqords and iPads to further its goal of promoting wellness in the community, said Eric Lewis, the hospital’s CEO.

“Sometimes technology can make you less active,” he said. “Using this technology — which the kids are really interested in — can help them develop healthy lifestyles and be more active.”

Lewis, who uses a Fitbit, knows first-hand how the devices will help students become more active, saying they make users very aware of their activity.

“If a student has a day where they are just playing video games and are not very active, it will show up and they won’t get very many points,” he said. “It creates awareness and creates lifestyle.”

Sqord’s website boasts that the devices have increased activity among inactive children by 55 percent.

An increase in activity is exactly what the district is looking for, Lisk said, pointing to research that shows students who are active tend to be more focused in the classroom.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2008 found that physical activity levels drop 76 percent between ages 9 and 15.

In 2014, 31 percent of Clallam County eighth-graders were obese or overweight, according to the Healthy Youth Survey.

Sqord, based in Seattle, has provided more than 100,000 of the devices to schools across the country. OMC plans to continue the program each year, Lewis said.