East Elementary Featured on The TODAY Show

The NBC TODAY Show national medical correspondent Dr. John Torres and a production team visited students at East Elementary School to report on how students there are wearing heart rate monitors to learn about their emotions and how to respond in healthy ways. The innovative program, “Operation Dragon Heart”, named after the school’s mascot, helps students learn to self-manage the stress and anxiety they feel during the school day.

The IHT ZONE heart rate monitor shows students their heart rate along with a colored display that correlates to their heart rate zone – blue indicates resting, yellow indicates moderate, red indicates elevated. Even if students don’t understand their actual heart rate, they can relate the color on the monitor to what they are feeling. Along with a mental health focused curriculum, students learn to self-regulate.

“Helping students understand that emotions are a very normal thing, that we all feel them - it’s how we respond to those feelings that has such an impact on what might happen next,” said Nicollete Vander Velde, assistant principal at East.  “We hope they can build a better foundation for dealing with stress as they move to middle school, high school and beyond.”

As the students monitor their heart rate and become aware of a heightened emotion, they learn to recognize six emotions that might be causing their monitor to change: love,  fear, anger, hurt, happiness and sadness. As the cause of their emotion is understood, they can use relaxation techniques to lower their stress levels and manage the moment better.

During the broadcast, Torres noted that studies by the American Psychological Association found that kids who handle their emotions do better in school with grades, tests and social interactions. “It’s never too late for any of us to learn how to handle emotions.”

The program has been in place for almost a year, and the video shares stories of students successfully using the monitors to cope with the emotions they have at school and at home. Watch the Video!