POSTED: Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 6:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, January 10, 2013 - 6:04am
Baton Rouge, La — The LSU College of Human Sciences & Education School of Kinesiology’s KIN 4501 service learning class has partnered with the Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, or BREC, to implement and run a free afterschool program in low-income neighborhoods called Playground Kidz.
Students in the class help children with their homework and plan organized physical activities. Every semester, the students also design a behavior management plan for the children. The program helps children get physically active when they might not otherwise and encourages them to focus on schoolwork as a top priority.
The afterschool program runs in three Baton Rouge parks on Monday through Thursday: Anna T. Jordan Community Park, Ben Burge Park and Mills Avenue Park.
The idea for the program began in 2008 when BREC approached then-Kinesiology Department Chair Amelia Lee about a partnership to combat childhood obesity.
“BREC hires a person for each site, often a school teacher, and our students provide the rest of the staff,” said LSU Assistant Professor Birgitta Baker, instructor for the course.
An important aspect of the course is the impact the students are having on the children. Children learn teamwork and patience through the games. Students who took the course noted that as the program progressed, the behavior of the children improved.
“The class is providing important stability in the lives of children who otherwise may have none,” said LSU Kinesiology major Amanda Cockerham of Walker, La. “Even when the leaders change, the kids know the program will be back.”
Because the topic of the class changes every year, with “Health Promoting Interventions in Communities” offered in the fall semester and “Physical Activity in Community Settings” offered in the spring, students can take it for six credits. Baker said that many students take the course multiple times. During their second semester, the returning students provide leadership and mentorship to the new students and often complete projects that are a continuation of the previous semester.
“The class gave me valuable experience dealing with groups of children in an academic setting and an activity setting,” said recent LSU graduate Mark Avery of Slidell, La. “More importantly, the class gives back to the community.”
Avery took the class for three semesters and recommends that any student who plans to work with children in their profession take the course.
“The kids were able to see someone who has chosen to continue their education past high school, which was huge for them,” said recent LSU graduate Jordy Barksdale of Baton Rouge. “They loved getting to hang out with us after school.
The growing program provides other opportunities for the children as well.
“This year, we’re partnering with the Louisiana Outdoors Outreach Program, or LOOP,” said Baker. “LOOP does an outdoor education program, so they’re going to come in once a week and occasionally do some Friday field trips with the kids.”