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Schools take tech route to getting kids to exercise

Physical education classes at West Babylon Junior High School use Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 2 consoles to allow students to play fitness-related video games like "Dance Dance Revolution."

In Lynbrook, high-schoolers improve their reflexes using a Cybex Trazer, an interactive machine in which reaction times and agility drive on-screen actions.

The two schools are part of a growing number on Long Island mixing technology and exercise to motivate kids.

"It's definitely a trend," said Colleen Corsi, executive director of the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. "Young people are so attuned to technology - it's how they interact. In order to engage them, teachers use these mediums."

About 51 percent of K-12 physical education teachers nationwide will use fitness technology in their phys-ed curriculums this year, and 32 percent will use video games, according to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. Many local schools have been pursuing grants to help fund their high-tech items, Corsi said.

Since the 1990s, Bay Shore Middle School has used heart-rate monitors from the Lake Success-based company Polar that consist of a chest sensor and a wristwatch that displays a student's heart rate as he or she exercises. The longer kids hit their target heart rate - generally 135 to 175 beats a minute - the better the evaluation they receive.

"If they're not in the zone, it negatively affects their grades," said phys ed teacher Ted Nagengast. "It makes the kids much more accountable."

John F. Kennedy Middle School in Bethpage also uses monitors and asks kids to compete "against themselves."

"We don't use them daily, because they lose their novelty," health teacher Mary Padalino said. "But typically, if it involves computers, kids are all for it."


Essay contest

Marisa Su, a sophomore at Garden City High School, has been named first-place winner of a recent essay contest sponsored by Hofstra University's National Center for Suburban Studies and Eastern Suffolk BOCES. In the essay, Su explained how Long Island's cultural diversity is the key to its social and economic survival.

She received a $3,000 prize.


E3 Day

North Shore Middle School students learned the importance of positive values last month during E3 Day, a character education initiative that stemmed from the school slogan: "Everyone Matters, Everyone Cares, Everyone Learns."

During the program, the school's 720 students filled out "value cards" that included personality traits they strive to possess and also discussed what the E3 concept means to them. They also created E3-themed dances and songs that were performed at a school assembly.

"If we just put the E3 message up on a wall, it'll sit there and that's it," principal Marc Ferris said. "We want to engage kids and make a difference in the way they interact."


Army Ranger's visit

Jericho Middle School students received an inspirational visit last month from Shawn Flanagan, a U.S. Army Ranger captain who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"All too often, students hear sound bites without depth, so we thought they should hear from someone whose experiences would improve their understanding of the issues facing the military stationed in the Middle East," social studies teacher James Shotter said.

The visit was part of the school's "Senior Experience," a lecture series for seniors.


Distinguished principal

Don Sternberg, principal of Wantagh Elementary School, was one of 63 elementary and middle school principals nationwide to be named a 2009 National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals based on his achievements in the field. He was the award's sole winner from New York.


Young scientist

Five Nassau County students were named winners last month in the International Young Scientist Competition sponsored by Medical Science Monitor, a science journal. Students submitted reports describing their participation in research programs at their high schools or in professional laboratories.

Garden City: Jan Gong of Garden City High School, honorable mention; Garden City Park: Akhil Sharma and Edward Vargas of Herricks High School, honorable mentions; Manhasset: Celline Kim and Demitri Dedousis of Manhasset High School, first and second place, respectively.


Writers recognized

Twelve Long Island high school juniors were among 544 students nationwide to recently receive achievement awards in writing from the National Council of Teachers of English. To participate, students submitted samples of their best writing in any form and an impromptu essay.

Bellmore: Michelle Dimino of Mepham High School; East Setauket: Julia Deng, Shelby Lin and Wenxiao Zhang of Ward Melville High School; Garden City: Allison Shen and Emily Tudisco of Garden City High School; Great Neck: Rachel Dicker and Shelli Gimelstein of Great Neck South High School; New Hyde Park: Leah Pupkin of Herricks High School; Syosset: Teena Nawabi of Syosset High School; Cathy Wilshusen of Our Lady of Mercy Academy; Smithtown: Taylor Rinefierd of Smithtown West High School.

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