UFV leads the way with play-based research

Chilliwack central elementary school students have been taking part in a project that could lead to better in-school programs

Sam gets pulled around the gym by his UFV buddy from UFV while taking part in Fast Club at Central elementary.

Sam gets pulled around the gym by his UFV buddy from UFV while taking part in Fast Club at Central elementary.

Emily Smith* holds a handmade passport, and she’s flipping from page to page.

Some pages bear one or two small stickers as encouragement to keep trying her best. Others are adorned with bigger, glossy stickers and plenty of handwritten praise. She flips lightning quick past the empty pages but lingers over the most colourful one, thinking intently.

A moment later, she’s figured it out.

“Oh!” she yells, beaming. “That’s the day I forgot to take my medication!”

She begins to shake her whole body, laughing with her arms out like a mummy.

“I was vibrating like this!”

Smith, a Grade 5 student at Chilliwack Central elementary school, has fetal alcohol syndrome and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Each causes symptoms that are problematic in the classroom setting, her mom says, like slow output, troubles focusing and blurting out. Medication helps even Emily out enough to focus on her school work so she can succeed.

“I can’t send her to school without her medication,” her mom says. “She couldn’t survive a day here.”

But there was that one day she forgot. Thankfully that was a FAST Club day, just like today.

Twice a week for one hour, Emily and 11 other kids at Chilliwack Central elementary get a break from their desks, from note taking, and from their teachers. They get to play, being as loud and moving as fast as they like, under the guidance of dozens of University of Fraser Valley kinesiology students.

Or, they can have quiet time, which is what Emily is doing after a good half hour of hula hooping and basketball shooting. She’s sitting on gymnasium stage taking a break, and giggles as she shows the colourful page to the UFV students running the program.

Everyone remembers the day she forgot her medication, and they all laugh.

The passports are a way for the kids to track their own progress. But they aren’t the only thing recording the kids’ movements. Research is at the heart of the FAST Club, and the study’s findings could help design ways to help children with myriad developmental delays navigate their way through the school day.

Each student participant wears a specially-designed research quality heart rate monitor that feed info wirelessly into a computer program that charts his or her activity. The kids know their heart rate goals, and can earn medals for staying in that range. The info is displayed on an interactive iPad, and the kids can check in throughout the hour with their own progress.

The more they move, the more medals they earn.

Each Central student is paired with a UFV kinesiology student as their own buddy, and some kids may require two buddies. Every time the group meets, the students and their buddies move through stations set up in the gymnasium that are designed to exercise different muscle groups and promote development. Two more UFV students man each station, where kids can play bean bag games, walk on balance beams, jump on pogo sticks, swoosh hula hoops, throw basketballs and whip around on scooter boards. There is encouragement to participate, but no pressure, and the stage is a quiet area to check in with the iPad, get away from the action, or play a board game.

It’s a groundbreaking “exercise intervention program” research project that has involved about 50 UFV students to date. They are collecting data to be processed and learned from, including the heart rate charts, salivary cortisol levels, physical and emotional changes, learning ability, and more.

The research is being overseen by Kathy Kliever and Alison Pritchard Orr, who are both associate professors at UFV in the department of kinesiology and physical education.

They said Chilliwack Central was a good fit for the project, where they could embed the program into the school day.

“Embedding it into the school curriculum has been fabulous,” Pritchard Orr said, as it doesn’t require any extra time spent at the school for the families.

“The intent is to have a research program that will help the kids,” Kliever said.

These 12 participants were chosen because they all have varying learning barriers or development disorders. Some have a specific diagnosis, others may not, and parents are not required to disclose this information to the school. Many choose to, because it helps the school access more resources.

Emily’s mom said she enrolled her daughter at Chilliwack Central because of the programs they are able to offer, due to the higher numbers of children needing extra care. The FAST Club research is driven by the team at UFV, and supported by the Chilliwack School District and NeuroDevNet, a federally-funded centre dedicated to understanding brain development and to helping children and their families overcome the challenges of neurodevelopmental disorders.

The volunteer UFV students involved have undergone special training and orientation, far above anything required for their coursework

There are still tweaks to be made to the FAST Club project, as it moves along as part of a larger research program.

When the 12-week program wraps up at the end of May, the kids who have been involved will likely miss coming to the gym for that extra two hours a week, including Nikko, an eight-year-old who has difficulty moving from one situation to the next.

Robert Williams, known to Nikko simply as ‘papa.’ watches the action from the sidelines. Once in a while he steps in to help with Nikko’s behavior. The program has given the kids who often have a hard time socializing a chance to be together and be accepted, he said.

“And it gives them (the researchers) a chance to watch the children and see what makes them tick,” he says. While it does mean the kids are missing out on a bit of classwork, “this is probably more important,” he adds.



*Some of the children’s names in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.



Just Posted

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

Vanessa Dueck.
Snapshots of a Chilliwack father from his loving daughter

Father’s Day memories of special moments shared together

Rachel is a six month old Labrador retriever cross who was found at large. She is seen here at the Chilliwack SPCA on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Rachel at the Chilliwack SPCA

6-month-old puppy found at large, now at Chilliwack SPCA, needs special home

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

Most Read