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Reading, eating, playing all ‘SPARK’ good he...

Reading, eating, playing all ‘SPARK’ good health, fun for Tennessee children thanks to new MTSU program

Young students in the Ann Campbell Early Learning Center's

Underserved children in a five-county area will get the “spark” they need to ignite healthier lifestyles thanks to MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services.

With $100,000 in funding from the Tennessee Department of Health, the MTSU center will develop, oversee and provide technical assistance for an initiative to integrate healthy eating, active living and a tobacco-free lifestyle into “SPARK 2 Read,” an after-school literacy program for minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged youngsters.Center for Health and Human Services logo

Dr. Don Morgan, a professor in MTSU’s Department of Health and Human Performance, said the program “builds on previous research showing that physical activity can strengthen learning and brain-body connections.”

The MTSU Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth, which Morgan directs, has been working with the Center for Health and Human Services on a 2017 grant to implement the overall SPARK program at nine rural elementary schools in Meigs, Hickman, Benton, Sullivan and Rutherford counties. Project outcomes are expected in August.

Spark program logoNationally, the U.S. Department of Education has recognized SPARK as an exemplary program, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified it as a national model for combatting childhood obesity. Now MTSU will help combine it in into a literacy initiative for children aged 5 to 14 in up to 12 schools in the same counties as the 2017 grant.

Those schools are East Hickman Elementary and Centerville Elementary in Hickman County; North Meigs Elementary and South Meigs Elementary in Meigs County; Briarwood Elementary, Holladay Elementary and Big Sandy Elementary in Benton County; Lincoln Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary in Sullivan County; and three to-be-identified Murfreesboro city schools in Rutherford County.

Center for Health and Human Services interim director

Cynthia Chafin

Dr. Don Morgan, director of MTSU’s Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth

Dr. Don Morgan

Murfreesboro’s “Read to Succeed” program is another partner in SPARK 2 Read. Executive Director Jolene Radnoti said her staffers can’t wait to be a part of it.

“When physical activity and learning are paired, new brain cells develop and cognitive functions are enhanced,” Radnoti said. “SPARK 2 Read will help children soar to new heights.”

MTSU Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth logoThe Center for Health and Human Services works to improve the health and well-being of Tennesseans. In partnership with the Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services at MTSU, CHHS initiates and strengthens academic programs in health and human services to support workforce development and promote healthy communities.

For more information, contact CHHS Assistant Director Cynthia Chafin at 615-898-5493 or cynthia.chafin@mtsu.edu or visit the center’s website at www.mtsu.edu/chhs.

To learn more about SPARK, visit www.sparkpe.org.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Young students in the Ann Campbell Early Learning Center's "Yellow Room" for 4-year-olds take a water break after careening around their playground outside MTSU's Fairview Building in this 2016 file photo. MTSU's Center for Health and Human Services, which advocates a healthy balance of active play, good food, reading and rest for every child, has expanded its "SPARK" activity program for children in five Tennessee counties into “SPARK 2 Read,” an after-school literacy program for minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged youngsters, to help show that physical activity can strengthen learning and brain-body connections. (MTSU file photo by Ann Campbell Early Learning Center)

Young students in the Ann Campbell Early Learning Center’s “Yellow Room” for 4-year-olds take a water break after careening around their playground outside MTSU’s Fairview Building in this 2016 file photo. MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services, which advocates a healthy balance of active play, good food, reading and rest for every child, has expanded its “SPARK” activity program for children in five Tennessee counties into “SPARK 2 Read,” an after-school literacy program for minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged youngsters, to help show that physical activity can strengthen learning and brain-body connections. (MTSU file photo by Ann Campbell Early Learning Center)


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