A multidisciplinary team of UGA faculty is partnering with the Clarke County School District this fall to provide a new after-school enrichment program aimed at improving children’s health and stimulating their learning in reading and mathematics. The program currently serves about 60 children in two elementary schools.
“We are bringing together UGA teacher educators, health promotion and kinesiology professors with Clarke County School administrators, staff and parents to provide a hands-on, engaging after-school program that will address the challenges faced by children,” said Phillip Tomporowski, a professor of kinesiology in the College of Education.
The Physical Activity and Learning program is being funded by a five-year, $666,193 federal grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, administered by the Georgia Department of Education.
The interdisciplinary community service project includes five UGA faculty members across two colleges. Joining Tomporowski are Bryan McCullick, a professor of kinesiology; Marty Carr and Paula Schwanenflugel, professors of educational psychology; and Jennifer Gay, an assistant professor of health promotion and behavior in the College of Public Health.
“We are mobilizing our UGA resources to help children in the community by calling on faculty who know how to direct interventions in physical activity, healthy behavior, family engagement, reading and mathematics,” McCullick said.
The new after-school program is the culmination of more than a decade of research that shows that children’s increased physical activity can lead to higher academic achievement.
The methods central to the Physical Activity and Learning program are described in the soon-to-be-released book Enhancing Children’s Cognition with Physical Activity Games, written by Tomporowski and McCullick, who are both participating faculty in UGA’s Obesity Initiative.
The after-school programs for qualifying children in grades two to five are held weekdays at both Fowler Drive and Chase Street elementary schools. The sessions last for nearly three hours each day. In the first 45 minutes, students receive homework assistance and a snack. Then they participate in physical activity games for 45 minutes. During each game, the rules are changed so students must think while they are physically active. The students receive enrichment in mathematics and reading during the final 55 minutes. At the end of each day’s program, the students are bused home.
The reading programming focuses on science literacy by using science texts and working on science text comprehension skills. The math programming uses mathematics games to develop children’s sense of number and spatial mathematics. The children do not receive this level of concentrated attention on these skills within the ordinary school day, according to Schwanenflugel.