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Jemison Middle uses tech to encourage fitness

By STEVEN CALHOUN/Staff Writer

Jemison Middle School has implemented a school-wide fitness-tracking program using fitness bands. January was the first full month of the fitness initiative.

The program was started to motivate students to be active. According to the school’s fitness instructor Aubrey Kearns, students start to think they are “too cool” to play physically demanding games like the ones in P.E. This program seeks to change that by gamifying exercise.

The Sqord armbands Jemison students use are wireless, waterproof and last for nine months without the need for charging. Students, teachers and parents can join in the competition by tracking their activities with the bands through the accompanying app.

“They never have to take it off. It goes home with them; they keep it the whole time,” Kearns said.

Kearns said there is no GPS technology in the armbands, so they are not trackable.

Around the clock, the armband tracks fitness with the Sqord app. Students rack up “sqoins” with their physical activity and can then use the currency to unlock decorative items for their avatars.

Students can also send pre-programmed messages to each other in the app. These range from “I could use a nap” to messages of encouragement. Students can only use the chat messages that have been programmed into the app. This feature avoids bullying and encourages students to spend their hard earned sqoins on more fun chat options.

In addition to the rewards in the app, students and adults can earn rewards in the real world. Kearns keeps a board in the gym of the top scorers in each grade for the month.

The monthly winners get a free membership for a month at the Chilton County YMCA and Anytime Fitness in Jemison, according to Kearns. Winners also get a Subway gift card.

The school now has extra times for physical activity twice a week that students can participate in to earn extra points on their armbands. There is also an after school club once a month for extra activity.

“You can fit activity in anywhere,” Kearns said. “We’re hoping that this will carry on and [students who move up] will all still be competing against each other.”

The club membership fee for students is $35. The fee includes the fitness band and helps cover the cost of prizes for the children. The school also created a private Facebook group so students, parents and staff can connect and participate in challenges together.