It’s not always easy for a kid to get out and play.
“Crab Orchard is a rural community in Cumberland County, with a lot of low income families. Kids don’t have easy access to extracurricular sports leagues,” says physical education teacher Cindy Miniard.
“SPARK has given them more experiences engaging in physical activity than they’ve ever had before.”Created in 1989 to address childhood obesity, SPARK has been implemented in more than 100 Tennessee middle schools since 2010.
The organization’s approach to physical education has been recognized by:
- The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition
- The Institute of Medicine
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- The National Academy of Sciences
It gets kids competing in small groups rather than two large teams, sets up fitness stations, or spends time on full-class activities like dancing or tumbling.
Teachers throw in lessons on nutrition along the way. Miniard was so pleased with SPARK, she instituted off-hours fitness classes.
“Our student fitness data, including BMI, tends to keep getting better until eighth grade, so we have tried to focus on middle school students,” says Miniard.
“We do a 20-minute workout or game with those students before school starts, at the gym.”
The kids love it, and teachers notice that students are more focused in class, as well.
“Now I have seventh grade teachers come to me and say, ‘We want that, too!’”