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How I Spent My Summer: Obsessing Over My Fitbit
By Jason Levitt 23-Mar-16
At our last faculty meeting of the year last May, staff of the American Community School (ACS) in Amman, Jordan were greeted with the blasting music of the Proclaimers and their classic song, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” Little did they know what was coming or how it might change the way they viewed their summer plans. “How do we motivate the staff to be active over the summer?” This question from a casual hallway conversation in March became a life changing event for many staff members; it provided a reason for people to get out or up and exercise, wear out a few shoes, create a few blisters, and generate great summer memories with friends and families. We hoped that once the idea was presented at the May meeting, a handful of people, at best, would take the challenge. Much to our surprise, by the time school closed for the summer holiday in June, 62 committed ACS staff had signed up. They were traveling to all corners of the world, each ready to take on the challenge of walking 500 miles—just for fun and just to stay connected over the summer. It wasn’t until miles started to be logged that we realized the full impact and reality of the distance of the 500 miles. Given the energy of the participants, they probably would have joined just because—but the school wanted to provide support and put our money where our mouth was as we constantly talk about health, balance, and fitness. In fact, one of the school’s new strategic priorities is related to healthy balance. So to provide support, the school committed to hosting a party in the fall for all participants. T-shirts would be provided and under certain conditions, the school would pick up the partial cost of a fitbit to track miles. Jason Levitt, PE teacher, also encouraged participants to create accounts on “Active Globe” (http://activeglobe.net) so people could identify destinations and then virtually walk there. Initially, there were lots of questions about tracking miles getting set up on Active Globe. The energy of the group grew as people started signing up and logging their miles. Given that we just wanted people to stay active over the summer, it was communicated that ANY form of exercise could be counted to log miles. We had staff converting swims, bike rides, tree climbs, and ju jitsu workouts into miles. No one was watching, judging or grading, everyone just wanted to be active! To help everyone stay motivated and engaged with each other’s progress, Jason created a Twitter hashtag and asked that participants post at least three comments about their progress and three pictures of their travels over the summer. We also wanted to make sure our new staff had the opportunity to participate so we invited them as well. A number of them picked up the challenge. It was a great opportunity for them to transition to a new place and get to know a few people, even if just virtually. All summer staff stayed active and shared enticing pictures of where they were walking, swimming, biking—all recorded with the #ACS500miles Twitter hashtag. While most of us did not reach the 500-mile goal, we had a great time sharing our journeys and travels, building memories with our children and friends, and staying active all summer. The end result was an astonishing 13,000 miles logged! Congratulations to our high achievers who actually met the mark: 1. Joe Swinehart - Grade 5 teacher: 506 miles. 2. Brian Hire - HS English teacher: 564 miles. 3. James Housego - Secondary Music teacher: 966 miles (mostly on his bike). We published the results of this fun summer event in our weekly school newsletter and now have parents who want to be involved. It looks like our next challenge percolating is: #ACSlovestomove - 30, 60, or 90 miles per month for the entire first semester. Just another way to have a bit of fun and stay active! Jason Levitt is a Middle and High School PE Teacher at ACS Amman.
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