Early Wednesday morning, a big smile covered 12-year-old Ahmed Mohamed’s face as he yelled, “this is fun!”
On its own, that statement may not be much of a surprise. That is, at least, until you consider this: Ahmed was having a blast… at school.
“I be like, yeah, I’m going to come to school every day,” he continued from inside the “exergaming lab” at theAnne Sullivan School in Minneapolis.
As Ahmed’s teacher, Amy Strickland Johnson, put it, “the majority of the kids use technology in some capacity or another so for them it’s natural. They just get right into it.”
The lab is a collection of exercised-based video games largely paid for by the University of Minnesota. Professor Zan Gao is studying how they improve students’ fitness and even their grades. The fitness component is obvious — the kids are moving. Gao thinks the games will help improve grades because they force the students to use the same part of their brain as they might for – as an example – a math problem.
“In our classroom, we’re reaching more kids than a lot of times we would in the gym. For sure,” Johnson said.
The program may eventually expand to other schools, but right now — the Anne Sullivan School is the only exergaming lab you’ll find in Minneapolis.
Altogether the study will last two years, and it starts next week. Researchers will give students a written test and a physical test at the beginning of the study. Then they’ll give the students the same tests at the end of the semester and compare the results.