Tonawanda News — There are flashing lights. There are electronic sounds. There are targets to hit and goals to reach and competitions to win.
But students at North Tonawanda elementary schools aren’t playing video games in class. They’re getting physically fit — and they’re having a good time doing it.
As part of the Carol M. White Physical Education program and its associated $1.43 million federal grant, the school district recently added interactive wall panels called Sportwalls to gymnasiums at its four elementary schools. Each school has six of the walls, which are used by all grade levels during physical education classes.
Earlier this week at Meadow Elementary School, district Athletic Director Cindy Bullis observed as a class full of second-grade students played a game requiring them to run across the gym floor, hit a lit-up target on the wall with a foam baton and dash back to their team.
“They don’t even realize how hard they’re working because they’re having so much fun,” she said. “This is how you bring technology into physical education.”
Each panel features seven circular, touch-sensitive targets. They can be programmed for multiple games and activities, to keep individual scores or team scores and to work at different skill levels for different age groups. There are different configurations: Lower targets can be used to work on soccer skills; higher targets for football and basketball. A line marks where a tennis net would fall so that students know if shots would have scored points in that sport. And there are more general aspects to to the games as well, encouraging cardio exercise and building accuracy and strength.
The game the children were playing in that class, for example, helps them work on arm strength, running and accuracy, Bullis said.
“The possibilities for kids are endless,” she said as the game ended and the winning team cheered. “They’re just going home so excited about all the things they can do.”