In front of the Sampson County Board of Education Monday night, Gersan Torres looked at a device on his wrist and smiled while talking about his health.
“I’m not very health oriented and I forget to drink water,” Gersan said as he checked a computer screen that was displaying information to both the audience and the seven-member board., detailing such things as how many steps he’d taken, how many calories he’d burned and how much sleep he’d gotten the previous night. “So this helps me a lot and I’ll check it and see that I haven’t drunk water all day.”
The Lakewood High School senior was at the school board meeting to discuss the Fitbit program, which tracks personal health statistics, such as calorie intake, sleeping patterns and physical activity, on a day-to-day basis. Gersan was joined by his anatomy and physiology classmates Jessica Espinoza and Ross Strickland.
Their teacher, David Yarasheski, believes the Fitbit increases the students’ awareness about their own health. Along with computers, the data from the electronic wristband may also be checked on a smartphone.
“It’s easy and convenient to use,” Yarasheski said. ” For people with blood pressure and cardiac problems, I think this is the beginning of these type of monitors where they’re going to be expanded into the health field itself.”
Lakewood received the Fitbits program through the Simple Gifts Fund’s Love of Learning grant program, which is awarded to educators and students for educational opportunities in and out of school. Its purpose is to improve public education by engaging students in critical thinking and problem solving. Yarasheski applied for the grant.
The class received 20 devices for current and future students. The total cost was about $2,000.
For the past three weeks, Gersan said he has became more self-conscious about his well-being and meeting personal fitness goals.
“It made me want to meet my goal and take longer walks or workout more,” Gersan said.
Strickland said it’s a big motivator for his peers.
“We try to see who can get the most steps in a week or how many miles we can run or walk,” he stressed. “It’s helped this class get healthier and it’s been fun.”
Like Gersan, Espinoza said it’s improving her health as well.
“It’s a really good device for us,” she attested. “I’m not a real healthy person, but I’m trying to get there. This is helping me burn calories and it’s helping me out at soccer. I’m really glad that we got this grant for our device.”
Margaret Turlington, Simple Gifts Fund coordinator, said she was thrilled for the students to have the opportunity to learn about their health through modern technology.
“It’s a new way to look at education in the classroom in a way that you have a different touchpoint in thinking about your anatomy and physiology,” Turlington said.