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La Union Elementary dances it out with Just Dance

Michelle Garza

Staff members at La Union Elementary have figured out a way to reach their entire school with only one Nintendo Wii, one screen and one room. The school in southern New Mexico has been using Just Dance as their beginning morning activity each day to give students extra physical activity. Staff members initially got the idea from a nearby school, Conlee Elementary, where school officials were broadcasting the popular game in every classroom every morning through their broadcasting system. Because La Union isn’t equipped with a similar broadcasting system, staff members decided to adapt the idea to work with their equipment.

Each morning, the school’s PE teacher, Hortencia Valtierra, brings out the Nintendo Wii and a projector on a portable cart into the school’s cafeteria, where students meet in the cafeteria each morning for breakfast. The Nintendo Wii is set to project on the back wall of the cafeteria’s stage. School officials covered some skylights in the cafeteria with black butcher paper so that the projection of the Nintendo Wii game could be seen better.

Four different students are chosen each day to pick the song from Just Dance and to hold the Wiimotes during the song. The four students are chosen randomly the previous afternoon though a drawing during afternoon announcements in which every student’s name is placed in a box. At 7:45 am, the four students chosen get up and go to the Nintendo Wii cart. Once they have chosen the song, the screen projects on the wall, which is the signal for the rest of the student body to stand up and take a place in the cafeteria to dance. The students do not have an assigned place to stand; however, they have been told to make sure that they have adequate space to move freely and safely. Because of their size and limited motor skills, the kindergarten students join the group in the back of the cafeteria with their teachers to help make it a safer activity for them.

After dancing to one song, students line up in their classroom lines. Administrators and staff have noticed that students seem to enjoy and “get into” this energizing activity. Every student in the building is participating alongside his or her peers and teachers. Parents who are still lingering in the cafeteria from dropping off their children for the day have also started to join in and dance along with their children.

The school also has a “Teachers Pick Day” once every three weeks in which four teachers’ names are drawn instead of student names. On this day, the teachers are the Just Dance leaders. Valtierra believes that this gets the teachers involved, which in turn helps get the students pumped up and excited.

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Funding Information

© 2013. NMSU Board of Regents. All rights reserved. This project was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the National Research Initiative (Grant #2008-55215-18837).

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The Exergames Unlocked project includes a multi-state team of accomplished media education researchers, exercise physiologists, medical professionals and doctoral students. Contributing members are researchers in their fields and have helped launch the use of exergames as tools to combat obesity in their communities and beyond. New Mexico State University researchers and their partners have been funded to research the impact of exergames, develop specific recommendations for exergame use, and implement exergaming programs. As part of that project, this website provides access to resources based on research, sample projects, and input from the exergaming community. For more information, contact the project director: Dr. Barbara Chamberlin, Professor, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service
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Why Exergames Unlocked? Exergames are videogames that encourage physical activity. Here, you’ll find the best and most effective exergames, as well as strategies and recommendations on using them with different audiences and in different locations.