Eat & Move-O-Matic

Use Eat & Move-O-Matic

The Eat & Move-O-Matic App is a great way to explore energy balance.

Use exergaming as a reward system in school

Schools nurture students’ physical health as well as educating them academically. It makes sense that the rewards students receive for good behavior and hard work should also be healthy for their bodies. Several elementary schools in southern New Mexico are rewarding students who met behavior goals with sessions in exergames labs or on exergaming equipment in the classroom.


In 2010, Mesilla Elementary was looking for a way to reward hard work and good behavior. They began handing out “golden tickets” once a month to students who completed their homework on time and were helpful and polite. A golden ticket meant a half-hour at the exergame lab playing with other students of similar age. Students could access a good selection of games at five stations (three Wiis, one PlayStation 2 and one Xavix).

The students were awarded Golden Tickets for things they could control, such as turning in assignments on time or behaving properly in the hallways. Rewards were never grade based but rather behavior based, and as a result, says Tisha Loranc, who helped implement the program, overall behavior improved. Reward “events” were administered by grade level for grades 3–5 and at the level of the whole class for k–2. In the younger grades the whole class was rewarded, while in the older grades individual students earned rewards.


Students reported that they had a great time. In the first month, 62 students in grades 3–5 received a golden ticket. They visited the exergame lab in groups of eight to 10, so everyone got plenty of time at games of their choice. Subsequently, 118 students in grades k–2 received golden tickets and had their chance in the lab. To ensure that younger students got the technological guidance they needed, a few fifth graders joined them in the lab as helpers. Professional development teacher Joan Hirsch, who ran the lab, reported that this worked well.


In a related program in the behavioral disorder (BD) classroom at the school, teachers awarded students lab time whenever they reached one of the mini goals that they worked toward as part of their learning program – one mini goal meant 15 minutes of game play.  In the past, mini goals had been rewarded with food, and this was replaced with game time.


Tisha Loranc reported that the game lab program not only eliminated food-based rewards but also worked better than food at motivating students. “It is great to be able to reward kids with extra physical activity and have them really enjoy the reward,” she said.



Making It Work:

–       Don’t emphasize taking away food rewards. Emphasize how fun it is to have parties that encourage activity. Teachers will be delighted to find that there is an alternative to food that is every bit as popular.

–       Don’t let it turn into sedentary computer time. The focus should be on the exergames as a fun activity that encourages activity.


–       Find out which games the kids enjoy. At Mesilla Elementary, Just Dance and the dancing games were popular with all of the kids. Wii Sports was also a big hit. Many of the kids also liked DDR, but in the context of a reward, it may be less appealing for kids to wait their turn on the dance mats.


–       A lab space works great, but this could also be done in a corner of the cafeteria or with a Wii that could be checked out by individual classrooms.


–       Set up the system so it’s ready to go, then mute the game or turn off the television. When you’re ready to begin it’s a matter of turning on the screen and starting game play.


–       Reward the entire class when they have performed well on an assignment or demonstrated good concentration and focus.


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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).

About Us

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?

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.