Bradley County schools get physical 'Spark'

Bradley County schools get physical 'Spark'

November 26th, 2011 by Randall Higgins in News

Bradley County Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel

Photo by Randall Higgins/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Physical education is becoming more integrated in Bradley County schools with the traditional three R's of reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic.

"What happens physically causes the brain to function better when you are in an academic setting. It stimulates the brain where you can learn at a faster rate," Bradley County School Board Chairman Charlie Rose said at a recent meeting.

At the meeting, the board unanimously adopted a PE curriculum called Spark that is designed to develop healthy lifestyles and encourage lifelong physical fitness. It comes with instructional material for teachers to use in class and also helps organize workshops for teachers.

Created in 2009 by the San Diego State University Research Foundation, Spark's products include publications and support materials, CDs and webinars for local coordinated school health programs.

Tennessee Department of Education created the state's Office of Coorditnated School Health in February 2002 as part of former Gov. Phil Bredesen's campaign against childhood obesity and diabetes. The Tennessee Legislature expanded the program in 2007 to include every school district in the state. Every school system now has a coordinated school health office.

Before the program, there was no curriculum for physical education. The Spark program, a commercial product for teachers distributed nationwide, includes printed material for teachers, CDs with music for exercises and workshops for teachers.

Earlier this year, Bradley County was a recipient of a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Carol M. White Physical Education Program. The $854,000 grant is for three years and can be used for exercise equipment, after-school programs and education about nutrition.

By purchasing the Spark program with about $4,000 from the grant money, Andrea Lockerby, Bradley County's Coordinated School Health director, said the county can develop a curriculum for physical and nutrition education. Spark is a professional development program for teachers to use to reach that goal.

Bradley's was one of 76 grants nationwide from the U.S. Department of Education.

Lockerby recommended the program to the board.

"This will be upping the bar for our physical education program," she said.

County Schools Director Johnny McDaniel said Bradley County is "on the cutting edge" of Tennessee's efforts trying to utilize the program.

He said Bradley County's Coordinated School Health office has won over $1 million in grants from various sources.

A van that is being retrofitted to be a clinic-on-wheels for county schools will be ready soon, Rose said, funded by grant money, too.