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MTSU researchers give Tennessee children a ‘...

MTSU researchers give Tennessee children a ‘SPARK’ to get moving with pilot program

MTSU is launching a project that will enhance children’s activities beyond those offered in traditional physical education courses.

Center for Health and Human Services logoWith 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 calls the program “exemplary.”

Spark program logo

SPARK, which was created in 1989 and is an acronym for “Sports, Play & Active Recreation for Kids,” gives schools 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.

Along with 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.

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

Dr. Don Morgan, director of MTSU’s Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth and the study’s research coordinator, said organizers “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.”

Chafin noted that researchers will want to know the program’s effect on:

• academic performance.
• children’s ability to focus in the classroom.
• absenteeism.
• student attitudes toward physical activity by children and parents.
• body mass index.
• family engagement around physical activity.

Morgan added that, while school physical education programs promote skills for active living, actual PE class time for students falls below the recommended 60 minutes of moderately intense daily physical activity for children.

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. The center, in partnership with the Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services at MTSU, 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.

For more information on MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services and the SPARK grant activities, contact 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 the SPARK program, go to www.sparkpe.org.

— Gina K. Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)

Participants in a SPARK project listen to instruction while preparing for after-school physical activity. MTSU will implement the nationally lauded program in nine elementary schools in four rural Tennessee counties. (Photo submitted)

Participants in a SPARK project listen to instruction while preparing for after-school physical activity. MTSU will implement the nationally lauded program in nine elementary schools in four rural Tennessee counties. (Photo submitted)


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