Students in Michael Firestone’s physical education class use the new spin studio that debuted this school year at Linden High School. The room allows teachers to diversify the students’ activities while making the best use of limited space.
By Gary Miller
A stationary bike doesn’t move, but it sure can take you places.
Linden High School students are learning that lesson in a state-of-the-art spin studio that debuted in September just outside the main gym. So far, the reviews are positive all around.
“We kind of hit a home run here,” said Steven Viana, the district’s director of health and physical education.
The room is the latest “breakout” room offered to physical education students, meaning it gives them alternatives for workouts aside from typical gym-class activities. The students also have access to an expansive weight room and a multifaceted fitness room, which offers yoga, Pilates, kickboxing and other activities. Because exercise bikes are among the most popular equipment in the weight room, it seemed natural to expand the offering.
It’s a unique program that helps solve a common problem for large school districts: trying to put on the best possible phys ed program in a limited amount of space.
“But I don’t know another school in the area that’s doing something similar,” said Viana, who credited Superintendent Danny A. Robertozzi, Business Administrator Kathleen Gaylord, Principal Yelena Horre, and the support of the Board of Education for making the project happen.
“When we first heard this idea from Mr. Viana, we knew it was worth our time and effort to get it done,” Robertozzi said. “It’s a great way to maximize our resources while giving the students something unique and valuable. It’s a win-win.”
The spin studio consists of 26 bikes, two of which are Peloton bikes that are equipped with on-demand instruction programs with a real instructor that the user can view on a screen. The instructor gives users instructions and encouragement and keeps the workout interesting and challenging.
But Linden High School takes it a step further by taking Peloton’s instructor video and broadcasting it from a big-screen television at the front of the room so that everyone can get the full experience.
“We wirelessly push the signal from the Peloton bike up to the 75-inch TV so every student is getting that Peloton experience,” Viana said. “We’re using the Cadillac of spin bikes in the Peloton and using it for everyone else in the room. We’re using our technology to the fullest extent.”
The Peloton experience includes 200,000 different videos to choose from, with different kinds of background music, different instructors, and different levels of difficulty and intensity.
“We have a whole myriad of options available,” Viana said.
Coupled with the two Pelotons are 24 Life Fitness spin cycles, all of which are fully customizable for each student. All of the bikes allow students to track their progress with real data, including calories, cadence, and other measures, which allow students to track their progress and compare it with others. For example, physical education teacher Michael Firestone had his class in the spin studio for a rotation in December. Freshman Edgar Saint-Val burned 178 calories during a 20-minute workout to lead the class.
“The spin studio at Linden High School is an innovative and exciting new experience for the students as well as the physical education staff,” said Barbara Brady, the Health & Physical Education Department chair, who was speaking on behalf of the phys ed staff. “It is a great alternative to a traditional physical education class. The students can focus on individual exercise goals and they can monitor their own progress. The spin classes also offer the students the opportunity to experience a lifelong fitness activity.”
Besides diversifying the students’ options, the spin studio and other breakout rooms serve another purpose. Each gym class has 100 to 150 students, which can complicate lesson planning. The breakout rooms give teachers the option to place 85 students in activities outside the main gym.
“That leaves 50 to 70 behind, which is a very good number to do a formal activity in the gym, whether we’re playing badminton, or floor hockey, or volleyball,” Viana said. “Whatever we’re doing, we have so much more space and the students are getting a much better class experience because we’re basically reducing the class sizes and providing more individualized instruction.
“Teachers love it because it’s so much more manageable. It’s so hard to do an organized physical activity for 150 students in one small area.”
Student rotate through different rooms every two weeks or so, so that everyone gets the chance to try different activities.
“We’re doing new things, creative things, to expand the phys ed opportunities with a limited space,” Viana said. “We’re always trying to give students new opportunities and the spin studio is just one venue in which students can get physically active.
“It’s new, it’s creative and the kids love it.”