The Importance of Child’s Play is Featured in the New Issue of Better Tennessee

I was back in gym class, and it was so very different from what I remembered.

In my research for the cover story in the latest issue of Better Tennessee, I spent a morning watching a group of students play hockey at McKissack Middle Prep School in Nashville and every one of them was a blur of movement. I spoke to the principal and the physical education teacher about the connection between the school’s educational philosophy and its adoption of the SPARK program for physical education classes. McKissack is one of 120 middle schools in Tennessee that received a Shape the State grant from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee that allowed them to introduce a more inclusive type of gym instruction. It includes enough equipment for every student in class, which is key to the program’s success.

When I was in school, we often split up into two big teams to play volleyball, softball, field hockey or basketball. In SPARK classes, every student gets their own equipment to work with at their own pace, before splitting into small teams. Everyone gets to play. Nobody stands on the sidelines. The non-athletic kids have as much fun and spend as much time developing their skills as their athletic classmates.

McKissack Middle Prep students in phys ed class
Students at McKissack Middle Prep in Nashville

This program is designed to align with current studies that show physical activity and play are important factors in childhood development. Being active helps students be healthy, happy and ready to learn, so getting every child active is important. That’s the focus of the cover package, “Playing it Forward.” In addition to SPARK, the article looks at the impact of GoNoodle, short activity videos to be used in the classroom, and KaBOOM! community-built playgrounds.

The issue also features stories on Howard’s Hope, a program that gives kids swimming lessons and Mending Hearts Camp, an arts camp for children who are grieving the death of a parent. On the other end of the age spectrum, a photo journal from this year’s state finals of the Senior Olympics shows the grit and grins of some determined older athletes.

Plus: A former opioid addict tells his story of recovery thanks to Chattanooga’s House of Refuge; all types of communities learn how to promote healthy lifestyles through Microclinic International training; Knoxville’s free flu shot event makes preventive health a festive event; and Mary Kiger, executive director of the Tennessee Charitable Care Network talks about how her organization helps member clinics meet community needs and share successful programs.

Better Tennessee is distributed to healthcare providers, local and state legislators and key stakeholders in the healthcare industry. All articles are available to the general public on the website