Five Easy Ways to Integrate Computers Into the Health Science/Physical Education Curriculum

You have heard it time and time again: “This is the age of technology! We need to integrate computers into our curriculum!†But with an overwhelming pile of papers to grade and more and more expectations piling up on teachers every day, who has time to add computers to their curriculum? Well, to get you started, here are five easy ideas that are already prepared for you — all you have to do is use them!

TrackStar. This wonderful Web site allows even the less tech-savvy teacher to create Web-based exercises for student research. As the site states on its home page

TrackStar is your starting point for online lessons and activities. Simply collect Web sites, enter them into TrackStar, add annotations for your students, and you have an interactive, online lesson called a Track. Create your own Track or use one of the hundreds of thousands already made by other educators. Search the database by subject, grade, or theme and standard for a quick and easy activity. There is a fun Track already made for each day of the year, too!

To understand the capabilities of TrackStar visit my Track, “Club Drugs Internet Assignment†and view it either via frames or via text. When I gave my students this assignment, you could hear a pin drop in the computer lab. This computer assignment really pulled their attention. Students today prefer using computers and the Internet to find out information versus the traditional paper and pen mode.

Three-Day Food Log — Using Microsoft’s Excel, have the students track their food intake for a period of three consecutive days. Using a chart-like format, students should record food eaten, the number of food servings, the food groups to which the foods belong, and the estimated calories in each given food. At the end of each day, students can total the amount of food group servings and calories they ate per day and discuss the implications of their choices (i.e.: are they eating ‘healthy’?; how can they improve their eating habits?; etc.) For help understanding food groups have them first view The Food Guide Pyramid, the American Heart Association’s Basic Food Groups, or any of the other sites derived from Googling “Food Groups.†To obtain calorie values have them view Calorie Content or any other site returned after Googling “Calorie Content.â€

Fast Food Facts — Have students search the internet for their favorite fast food restaurant menus, but with a switch. They’re going to evaluate the nutritional values of their favorite meals, using a Web site such as The Fast Food Nutrition Fact Explorer. The site lets users see the ‘nutrition labels’ for various menu items, from burgers to fries to shakes, etc. It also allows one-on-one comparisons between the same item from two competing chains — i.e., whose fries have more calories, more saturated fat, more sodium, etc. An interesting project would be to divide the class into teams of two to four, have each team declare its ‘loyalty’ to a particular chain, and then have the team actually research the nutritional values of that chain’s offerings. Armed with solid nutritional evidence the teams can then attempt to prove to an impartial audience that their chain is more healthful or that the other team’s chain is harmful to their health. Another project would have teams creating the “Best of the Bad For You†— finding the least harmful fast foods for someone who will eat nothing else.

STD Facts — Assign a different STD for each student to research. Some may be duplicates depending on your class size. Depending on the maturity of your students, and/or the tolerance level of the community, you may want to pre-screen Web sites related to this topic. One site that should pass muster is the Urology Channel’s “STDsâ€, which renders mature and thoughtful discussions of a range of STDs. Of course, no discussion of STD’s can ignore the topic of AIDS (and your students probably will not let you ignore it). There are many sites dedicated to this world-wide disease, but one of the most informative is AIDS.ORG.

Your students might also find it fascinating to discuss the AIDS problem in emerging countries. For help with this they might want to make use of “HIV and AIDS Around the Worldâ€. That is a portal to Web pages discussing not just various world regions but the impact of HIV/AIDS on various subsets, such as U.S. Military, Women, Prisoners, etc.

Internet Resources — In order to develop more assignments like the above, have students search the Internet for articles on any Health Science/Physical Education-related topic. Articles must be recent and from a reliable source. To teach your students (and yourself) more about how to evaluate Web sites, visit Kathy Shrock’s Teacher Helpers and any of the many other sites about site-evaluation (just Google ‘Evaluating Websites’). Once your students are comfortable evaluating such sites, have them Email you the addresses of the sites which they recommend.

Hopefully, you can implement these easy ideas into your current curriculum. If not, I hope these ideas inspired you to create similar computer assignment to fit your curricular needs.

Jennifer Harman