Grants help local students learn, exercise while 'moving to the numbers'

Kingsport Ballet is using a recent HEAL Appalachia grant to fund a fitness program for its own curriculum students as well as for children in after-school programs. Photo courtesy of Kingsport Ballet

Students at Kennedy and Lincoln elementary schools will be “moving to the numbers” this fall, thanks to a $2,000 community grant awarded by HEAL Appalachia.Kingsport City Schools (KCS) will use the grant to purchase the Math & Movement program, designed to help kids learn more, retain more and gain valuable basic math skills while exercising their bodies as well as their minds.“We’re really excited about it. Anything that supports academics, but when we can get activity or exercise incorporated in the classroom, it’s a win-win for everybody,” said Misty Keller, coordinator of school health for KCS.This is the third year in a row KCS has received a HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) grant. HEAL Appalachia is a collaboration between Mountain States Health Alliance and East Tennessee State University, along with other regional partners. Its goal is to assist the region in attaining the highest possible level of health through healthy eating and active living initiatives.The fourth annual HEAL Appalachia Symposium was held in April, bringing together community groups and individuals in the fight against childhood obesity. Winners of 19 community grants were announced — four grants at $5,000 apiece and the others worth $2,000 each. The funding goes to specific programs in the Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee region that help promote healthy children.Winners of the $5,000 2013 HEAL Appalachia community grants were Bluff City Middle School, Clinch Valley Community Action, Virginia Cooperative Extension: Family Nutrition Program and Castlewood School.Winners of the $2,000 2013 HEAL Appalachia community grants were: • Boys & Girls Club of Greeneville & Greene County. • Mountain Kids Inc. • Kingsport City Schools —Math & Health Curriculum & Instruction Coordinators. • Girls on the Run of Northeast Tennessee. • Greeneville City Schools. • Sullivan County Schools. • Abingdon High School. • Russell County Public Schools. • Kingsport Initiatives for Training and Employment for Lee Family Learning Center. • Rural Retreat Elementary School PTO: Marathon Kids. • Clinch School. • Kingsport Ballet. • Carter County Schools. • Town of Unicoi. • Russell County YMCA.Two years ago, Kingsport City Schools received a $2,000 grant for a raised bed garden at Johnson Elementary School. Last year, Keller said, KCS was awarded $5,000 for the culinary arts program at Dobyns-Bennett High School.The Math & Movement program will allow students to physically hop, walk, crawl, dance or touch mats and banners as they learn, therefore using more learning modalities (visual, auditory , motor and kinesthetic) when practicing.“School systems in Chattanooga have used this for the past two years and have tracked those students and they saw a great increase in math scores,” Keller said. “We actually have the creator of the program, Suzie Koontz, flying down here [from New York] in July to train all our teachers. Teachers will be trained in July, and it will be incorporated as soon as the kids come back in August.”Kingsport Ballet will use its grant to continue an outreach program called Move 1 and Move 2.“It’s a fitness program that incorporates the fitness offerings that we have at Kingsport Ballet, but it is targeting children in the community,” said Kingsport Ballet Executive Director Bertina Dew. “There’s two components — Move 1 targets under-served children through area after-school programs. Move 2 targets our own curriculum students.”Dew said they started the program because they noticed children in their outreach program that teaches introductory ballet were having issues with fitness.

“There seemed to be a large number of children who had trouble reaching down and touching their toes, could barely skip, who could not jump if they were told to put your hand on your waist and jump off the ground,” she said.A large number of these children are also overweight.“For the children in the Move 1 program, the main goal was to introduce them to different forms of exercise on a rotating basis for fun — get your heart pumping in a really fun way and learn about these different forms of exercises.“The Move 2 group targets our curriculum students and ... they are fit for dance. We wanted them to learn more about the benefits of cross-training, how Pilates, yoga and tai chi can connect to a dancer’s body’s needs and how those are also forms of exercise you can take with you through the years.”

There is also a nutrition component to both Move 1 and Move 2, Dew said.“The goal there is to empower the kids to make snacks themselves that are fun to make and really good for you and a great alternative in the summer,” she said.“In the summer, we have summer intensive for curriculum dancers and we’ll do the Move 2 component in the workshop, but the full program will start back up in the fall. Move 2 takes place at our facility. Move 1, we send teachers to the Boy and Girls Club’s Eastman and Riverview units,” she said.For more information about HEAL Appalachia, visit