OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education has launched a new license endorsement in wellness and physical activity for K-6 teachers based on a specialized program designed by education faculty at the University of Mississippi.
This fall, the UM School of Education will begin offering a 12-hour curriculum in wellness and physical activity for elementary education majors who seek to understand the correlations between cognition, physical activity and overall wellness. All students who complete these courses will qualify for the new credential as part of their teaching licenses.
“Our goal is for our students to teach in a way that benefits the whole child,” said Alicia Stapp, assistant professor of wellness and physical activity and coordinator of the program. “Integrating wellness and physical activity into academics benefits all forms of intelligence including academic, physical and social.”
Stapp, a veteran of public schools in central Florida, joined UM to design the new program in 2014 after the School of Education obtained $1.2 million in private funding from the Bower Foundation in Ridgeland to create the wellness program in 2013.
The new endorsement is no typical PE program. In fact, the physical aspect of this methodology is only a small piece of the puzzle. The Ole Miss program focuses on what happens in the minds and bodies of children who are active in a well-designed academic environment.
In essence, the goal is to prepare teachers to jumpstart children’s brains to optimize their capacity to learn and generate positive health outcomes. Wellness education graduates will create and implement lesson plans that integrate music and movement while also focusing on academics.
UM’s coursework utilizes extensive research that shows a direct link between health, physical activity, academic achievement and student behavior. Other research also suggests that incorporating physical activity in a classroom for just 20 to 30 minutes a day could help prevent troublesome conditions such as obesity or Type 2 Diabetes.
With more than 400 students, elementary education is the largest professional major at Ole Miss and graduates should start to emerge with this training within a year.
“The strength of the wellness and physical activity endorsement is that it provides pre-service teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to integrate movement and wellness into the existing curriculum,” said Susan McClelland, chair of the Department of Teacher Education. “This integrated approach can transform a classroom and greatly enhance student involvement in the learning experience and thus, impact student achievement.”
The university’s eventual goal is to place small cohorts of wellness education graduates in individual schools to help shift school cultures in a positive direction.
For more information about UM’s endorsement program in wellness and physical activity visit http://teachwell.olemiss.edu.