MURFREESBORO — MTSU is launching a project that will enhance children’s activities beyond that offered in traditional physical education courses.
With funding from the Tennessee Department of Health’s Division of Family Health and Wellness, MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services will oversee and furnish technical assistance for a pilot program of after-school physical activity for nine elementary schools in Sullivan, Meigs, Benton and Hickman counties.
Students ages 5 through 12 will participate in the SPARK program, which is identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a national model. The U.S. Department of Education deems the program “exemplary.”
SPARK, which was created in 1989, provides schools with a curriculum, on-site teacher training, follow-up support and content-matched equipment. Fourth-graders may also participate in a collaborative research study to assess its effectiveness for them.
In addition to the state health department, the Tennessee Department of Education Coordinated School Health Program and MTSU’s Department of Health and Human Performance are partners in the project.
“The CHHS is pleased to partner with our campus colleagues in Health and Human Performance as part of this research and service project, which will benefit schools and children in several rural Tennessee counties,” said Cindy Chafin, interim center director.
“We hope that results from this project will help us learn more about the role that school-based activity programs conducted outside of the school day can have on classroom performance and the overall health and well-being of children,” said Don Morgan, director of MTSU’s Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth and the study’s research coordinator.
Chafin said that researchers will want to know the program’s impact on academic performance, children’s ability to focus in the classroom, absenteeism, body mass index, student attitudes toward physical activity by children and parents and family engagement around physical activity.
Morgan added that, while school physical education programs promote skills for active living, the time allotted for physical education falls below the recommended 60 minutes of moderately intense daily physical activity for children.
The Center for Health and Human Services seeks to improve the health and well-being of Tennesseans. The center, in partnership with the Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services, initiates and strengthens academic programs in health and human services to support workforce development and promote healthy communities.
Through collaborative affiliations and partnerships, the Center facilitates research, communications, education, and training in public health issues of importance to Tennessee consistent with the mission and purpose of MTSU.