Press Release from Carla Meigs:
Sand Hill Elementary is a Professional Development School partner with the University of West Georgia. This past fall, we offered Get FITness, Get LITerate (FIT/LIT) project which involved a partnership between the University of West Georgia (faculty and students/pre-service teachers), the Cherokee Rose Writing Project (co-directors), and Sand Hill Elementary School (fifth grade students, teachers, administration, and other support staff). Our first year, we planned to invite 25 fifth grade students to apply to participate in the program, which would meet one afternoon per week (roughly 2 hours) for approximately ten weeks, beginning in September 2017. Facilitators will include 3-5 Sand Hill teachers, 3-5 UWG College of Education faculty, and 3-5 pre-service teachers (as a volunteer service-learning opportunity). Healthy snacks and materials were provided. Students participated free of charge.
The purpose of this project was to combine fitness with literacy in an effort to increase physical health and cognitive conditioning. We believed that wellness involves a balance between mind and body and that movement is an integral part of the academic achievement. Furthermore, we believed that the social components of the FIT/LIT program will bring together diverse learners in a way that nurtures both their literacy development as well as their social-emotional well-being as they dialogued with teachers, peers, and family members.
The three components of the project involved a 30-minute snack and fitness/movement segment, a 45-minute book club component, and a 45-minute journal writing session. All three components revolved around the theme of walking in someone else’s shoes. Each session began with a healthy snack and walking/movement time, where students and facilitators used the school’s track and gymnasium to reach step goals and track them both individually and collectively using Movbands. The literary component centered around the books that illustrate the theme of seeing the world through another’s eyes.
Text ideas include the following: The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story, by R.J. Palacio, which focuses on a culturally diverse main character who helps readers learn to see the world through others’ perspectives, highlighting socially relevant themes such as bullying, interpersonal relationships, acceptance, and compassion; Voices in the Park, by Anthony Browne, which tells the same story from four different perspectives and illuminates themes of isolation and friendship; In Jesse’s Shoes, by Beverly Lewis, which focuses on learning to embrace children who are different and have special needs; and Rules, by Cynthia Lord, which examines the idea of “normal” and offers a unique perspective on feeling different and finding acceptance. The writing aspect involved a four-way dialogue journal where readers conversed with the text, the teacher facilitators, and their own family members using the written word to process their connections, questions, noticings, and wonderings related to the events that occur in the readings.
The teachers at Sand Hill Elementary, the COE faculty members, CRWP co-directors, and the pre-service teachers acted as facilitators for each component of the project (movement, reading, writing) by leading a small group of five students. The fifth-grade students actively participated in fitness challenges, book clubs, and dialogue journals.