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Flowing Wells class turns P.E. into party
[November 23, 2012]

Flowing Wells class turns P.E. into party

Nov 22, 2012 (The Arizona Daily Star - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" blasts from the speakers of one of six 47-inch HDTVs mounted to walls around the classroom. Flowing Wells High School students dance to the music, with Wii controllers in hand.

If not for a teacher's whistle momentarily killing the fun, you could mistake the scene for a school dance or party. Instead, it's a sophomore health class. The whistle means it's time for the kids who were playing "Just Dance" to rotate to the next Wii station and start up a game of "Wii Sports" tennis.

Video games in the classroom It's a teenage dream indeed.

"I think it's really fun to get to come in and take a break and get active," student Nadine Robles said. "Friends kinda get jealous that we get to come in here and play the Wii while they have to sit in class all day." Teacher Mark Brunenkant, who also coaches the school's football team, keeps watch over the enthusiastic students.

Not that they need much supervision. Eyes locked to the screen, the students are lost in a videogame zone, burning calories as they play.

"This isn't a class where you say 'You gotta go run four laps,' " Brunenkant said. "There are classes like that, but here it's easy motivation." This is the first semester for the class, called Fitness, Wellness and Applied Health. It's the brainchild of Brunenkant's brother, Jim Brunenkant, who is principal. In addition to two days a week focused on Wii games, Brunenkant teaches about nutrition and has students do timed runs and sets of pushups and situps, charting their progress over time. The school converted a classroom into a "Wii room" for the class.

With its motion controls, the Wii keeps students moving, having them execute dance moves, calisthenics and vigorous arm movements.

The district paid $9,300 to buy the TVs, Wiis, games and accessories.

At a class Nov. 14, students scooted from one station to the next, only pausing when they arrived at a station that required one or two players to play at a time while the others waited their turn.

Brunenkant said Wii games not only make kids happy to exercise, but break down social barriers. Shy, passive students who would never think of dancing in a classroom, he said, let their inhibitions go because digital prompts tell them to do so.

Getting kids to do things such as grooving to a "Just Dance" song or jogging in place in a "Wii Fit" activity, he said, is easier than getting them to play basketball.

Student Luis Ruiz Robles said the nature of video games helps bond students.

"It gets you away from the peer pressure you've got all day," he said, adding that he also plays Wii games at home, which makes him more comfortable in class.

Most of the kids say they play Wii games in their free time. Brunenkant does not. The school held a training session to show teachers how to set up and use the equipment, but it turned out to be unnecessary because the kids knew their way around the equipment so well.

"They know how it's done," Brunenkant said. "They knew how to set it up from the get-go. It's generational." Only recently did Brunenkant try out the Wii himself.

Or at least he started to.

"When I saw everyone pull out their cellphones" -- to record what he was doing -- "I stopped." Brunenkant said the class has potential, and he and other teachers are looking for ways to expand Wii activities. He said students are always asking to see the room and join the class, which, naturally, has a reputation of being a good time.

"It's not AP calculus," he said with a smile.

Students enjoy the activity but understand the purpose behind the play.

"It's really fun," student Bobby Parra said, "and a great way to get us moving and stuff." Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or ___ (c)2012 The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.) Visit The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson, Ariz.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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