Aimed at improving children’s physical activity levels while boosting their STEM proficiency, this innovative technology-based program has been integrated into the school day of all fourth-grade students at five Lawrence Public Schools.
Active Science, a joint venture through The Merrimack Valley YMCA and Merrimack College, has expanded its reach within the City of Lawrence through a generous grant of $150,000 from New Balance Foundation. Aimed at improving children’s physical activity levels while boosting their STEM proficiency, this innovative technology-based program has been integrated into the school day of all fourth-grade students at five Lawrence Public Schools. Over 600 children have participated in this novel initiative to date.
In recognition of the success of the hybrid Active Science-physical education program, there will be a celebratory event held at the Frost School on April 25, from noon to 1:00 p.m. This event will include a real-time demonstration of the Active Science program and will acknowledge New Balance Foundation and Lawrence Public School system for their immeasurable contributions to the program’s ongoing success.
Shown to drive significantly higher physical activity levels and science performance, Active Science was pioneered by Dr. Kyle McInnis, dean of the School of Health Sciences at Merrimack College. Since its inception, Active Science has been buoyed by a series of grants, including over $1 million in funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and has been implemented in 20 YMCA afterschool program centers, primarily in the Northeast, through a partnership with the Merrimack Valley YMCA.
“Active Science helps New Balance Foundation deliver on its mission to drive change in our global communities with an enduring commitment to preventing childhood obesity and championing the future success of today’s youth,” says Molly Santry, senior manager global philanthropy. “For more than 35 years, New Balance Foundation has invested in research, and clinical, educational and community programs that promote healthy lifestyles, children’s fitness and nutrition, and overall community wellness.”
“We are so pleased that the New Balance Foundation has chosen to support this innovative program, as well as other YMCA initiatives aimed at promoting healthier lifestyles,” said Merrimack Valley YMCA COO Frank Kenneally. “Our partnership with New Balance is based on our shared interest in preventing childhood obesity in the city of Lawrence and beyond.”
Active Science students wear pedometers and accelerometers during their enrichment, after school, or during-school activities, entering their own data to power STEM learning activities via the Active Science mobile app. In addition to promoting physical activity and fun with peers, the app includes engaging science education activities and game-like features that recognize personal and team achievements.
Besides tackling rising rates of childhood obesity and lower performance trends in science and math, McInnis sought to develop a program that addressed the changing ways in which students receive and synthesize information.
“Research has shown that exercise stimulates learning in growing brains and that children show more interest in science learning when they collect and analyze their own data,” says McInnis.
Active Science was first introduced at the Lawrence YMCA in 2011 and now is featured in a state of the art Active Science Center located at the Andover/North Andover YMCA that is equipped specifically designed spaces to conduct Active Science programs; featuring a large multi-functional turf field and separate lecture space complete with Wi-Fi.
Teaming with New Balance Foundation has allowed the program to be integrated into physical education during the school day, a collaborative made possible by Superintendent to the Lawrence Public Schools, Jeff Riley. Students from the Leahy School and Arlington Middle School were the first students in the country to use the cutting edge programming as part of their physical education experience. Now, more than 1,400 children are participating in the program, which expanded into five Lawrence elementary schools this year, including the Parthum, Guilemette, Tarbox, Frost, and South Lawrence East Schools.
Throughout the curriculum, students can take advantage of hands-on opportunities including cooperative education and internships, research with faculty, study abroad and service learning. And because our curriculum is grounded in the liberal arts, graduates are prepared to be imaginative, analytical, aware of trends and historical perspectives, clear-thinking and adaptable to changes in their career.