Students enthused as CHS brings fitness technology to Catholic schools

PETE SHEEHAN | TLIC
Students from St. Patrick’s school participate in iGame4 Fitness.

Huntington — Parents and educators often complain that electronic games turn children into couch potatoes, but a new program in the Catholic schools is using video games to get kids to get physical.

The iGame4 Fitness Program, planned for all the Catholic elementary schools in the diocese through a grant from Catholic Health Services (CHS) of Long Island, uses Wii electronic games to make kids jump, wave their arms, and dance.

“It’s a natural partnership for Catholic Health Services, which is interested in health, and our Catholic schools, which are interested in teaching,” said Richard Sullivan, CHS chairman. “We’re all part of the same Catholic family.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” exclaimed each of the students at St. Patrick’s School here who stopped to speak about the program, used in all the school’s physical education classes  last week.

“I was pumped,” said James Camacho, a third-grader. He praised “the crazy movement” that he performed with the “Just Dance” games. “It got me dancing.”

“You’re using your whole body instead of just your thumbs” as in most video games, said Sofia Sellars, a third-grader.

Students rotated to a dozen stations each with different games and a huge video screen as well as cameras or remote controllers that monitored each student’s movements. The games focus on different physical characteristics, such as coordination, endurance, and core strength.

The students’ body movements controlled the images on the screen as students danced to music, rode a boat through a river running through a canyon, and sliced fruit in midair. There are also monitors to detect heart rates and calorie consumption.

Al Pisano, a veteran teacher who has worked for BOCES and Stony Brook University in educational technology, started iGame4 Fitness “to get kids motivated to do more physical activity.”

“Studies have shown programs like this encourage kids to do more, with their game system but also outdoors,” Pisano said.

“We also have a fitness night,” so parents can bring their kids and take part themselves, he added. “We want to get the whole family involved.”

“I think this is great,” said Sister of Mercy Maureen McDade, principal at St. Patrick’s, “especially for the children who don’t like to move or participate in sports.”

“The diocesan Education Department is very fortunate to have received a grant from Catholic Health Services to promote the importance of living a healthy lifestyle with the students in the schools,” said Norma Whitley, assistant superintendent for educational technology for the diocesan schools.

“The integration of technology into the physical education program through the use of iGame4 will be another way to make physical fitness fun and motivate students to be active in and out of school,” she added.  

Meredith McPharlin, a third-grader, said she liked “Ninja Fruit,” a game where pieces of fruit appear on the screen to fly up in the air. You have to move your body as you pretend to slice the fruit in midair.

“You move your body a lot,” Meredith said.

“I’ve never seen fruit explode like that,” said Will Spada, a third-grader, referring to the images on the screen. “It was cool.”