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Award-winning curriculum blends hall of famers, exercise

  |   Kristen B. Morales   |   Permalink   |   News Release

A growing number of children around the state are learning about the benefits of exercise, sports and the Georgia stars who excel at it thanks to curriculum developed by professors at the University of Georgia College of Education.

The learning materials are part of the MomentUs Initiative from the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon, with the goal of teaching children in Georgia about the stories and character of homegrown athletes along with the benefits of diet and exercise. Bryan McCullick and James Zhang, professors in the college's Department of Kinesiology, collaborated on the project and last month their curriculum won the 2014 International Sports Heritage Association Communications Award at the organization's annual meeting last month in Nashville.

McCullick said the ability to add Georgia sports stars to the lessons is one more way for children to identify with exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

"It makes it a little more meaningful if you're talking about a topic and you tie in these people who you can read about, or perhaps even talk to them," said McCullick. "For me, as a kid, it would be completely awesome to do a history project along with the science and physical activity part of it."

For the curriculum, McCullick researched Georgia Sports Hall of Fame inductees and created lesson plans that link them with activities sharing similar aspects of their sport. For example, students learn about cardiovascular health and take part in an activity that gets their heart rate up, like jump rope. This is followed with a lesson on swimmer Angel Myers-Martino and boxing great Evander Holyfield. All the lessons align with Georgia Performance Standards.

Another part of the curriculum includes a "Living Hall of Famer" project, where schools can work with the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame to connect students with an inductee, either in person or via phone or Skype.

"Teachers anywhere from sixth to 12th grade can use these activities. And they don't have to be in sequence — you can use the ones that reflect the interest of your students," said McCullick, who specializes in physical education instruction.

McCullick and Zhang developed the curriculum last spring. It's now in place at schools in Bibb and Troupe counties, and Clarke County schools will begin using the curriculum in January, said Ben Sapp, managing director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

The organization is working with educators on the state level for a wider distribution of the curriculum.

"We've always seen part of our mission to be motivating and educating the youth of our state, and physical education seems like a natural fit for us," said Sapp. "You see stories about the increased rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes among children, so we see ourselves at the hall of fame having a significant role to play in combating those things."

And because many athletes also played a role in historic events — athletes who attended the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, for example — the curriculum reaches beyond the gymnasium.

"Now, children are seeing that some of these athletes have historical relevance beyond sports," said McCullick. "So there are multiple opportunities for teachers to come together and collaborate in different areas."

© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602