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Research disguised as recess: Exercise science major seeks data on playground
Brie Maaske
Antelope Staff
Photo by Brie Maaske
Peters used an accelerometer to measure the amount of physical activity the students got at each recess. The accelerometer measures phyiscal activity in METs, which is then translated in to minutes of physical activity. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that children have 60 minutes of activity a day, which the games at recess helped them to achieve.

He is a part of some of the most fun and interactive research on campus. He thinks so, anyway.

For 10 weeks, Brad Peters, a junior exercise science major from Gering, worked with Kearney elementary schools as part of a group, teaching students games and monitoring their physical activity levels.

The group then presented their findings at this year’s American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Conference in Indianapolis over spring break.

In his research, Peters looked at the effect of temperature on the time spent outside for recess and how it affected the amount of the students’ activity.  

By collecting data on students through direct observation and an accelerometer, which measures the minutes of physical activity, Peters said they found that the students got the same amount of activity no matter the temperature. This meant that teachers were the ones cutting recess short, not the students.

Peters spent three days a week with the elementary students, teaching them new, fun games that would keep the students going.

One of the games that the students played was Capture the Ball. “The students were divided into two teams separated by cones placed along the middle of the field. About 15 gator balls were placed next to the soccer goals in hula hoops on both sides of the field.

The object of the game was to cross the midline to steal the other team’s balls and return them to their team’s hula hoops. Once a student crossed the midline in an attempt to steal a ball they could be tagged by the opposing team. If tagged, they go to ‘jail’ in that team’s soccer goal,” Peters said.

“I have worked with many of these kids on multiple occasions, which made it very easy for me to connect with them because they became familiar with me,” Peters said. “Since I was only in the schools about three days a week, the kids always got excited to see me, because they knew they had a new activity to play out on recess that day,”

This is Peters’s third year participating in research in the Human Performance Lab at UNK. He has also worked on research dealing with childhood obesity, Building Healthy Families, in which the college students teach families about nutrition, exercise and diet and help them make a plan to be healthy as a family. Between 10 to 12 families participated in a nine-month program.  

Working with these students allowed Peters to learn more about childhood obesity and what can be done to stop it. “I’ve learned about the risks and causes of childhood obesity by being able to work directly with the kids. At the same time, I have also learned many creative and fun ways to prevent obesity by observing what the kids like and dislike as far as physical activity goes,” Peters said.

“This project, along with others I have helped with, has allowed me to apply what I have learned in the classroom to real world situations,” Peters said.

This summer Peters is doing an internship at Duke University in Durham, N.C., in their Human Performance Lab and hopes to go to medical school after graduation for pediatrics or orthopedics.

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