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NMSU researchers receive Paso del Norte Health Foundation grant for youth activity project


Three researchers at New Mexico State University recently received a grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to promote lifelong physical activity among teens.

The program, Youth on the Move, is designed to help physical educators learn how to implement an Activist Approach to teaching in their classrooms to better facilitate students’ engagement in physical education. The program is spearheaded by Kimberly Oliver, professor of physical education pedagogy; Raquel Aranda, assistant professor of physical education; and Jackie Beth Shilcutt, a Ph.D student and graduate assistant in the NMSU Department of Kinesiology and Dance.

The program received a $204,000 grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to continue over the next year, working with physical education teachers as they co-create physical education curriculum with their students in middle and high schools in Las Cruces and El Paso, as well as the Gadsden Independent School District.

“While I originally developed the approach with and for adolescent girls in physical education, the approach has since extended to coeducational PE settings, after-school sports and dance clubs, and even firefighting camps around the world,” Oliver said.

Youth on the Move is funded through the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) initiative.

“The Youth on the Move approach is aligned with the HEAL initiative’s goal of increasing physical activity,” said Jana Renner, program officer for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. “This approach engages youth in physical activity at a time when they are more likely to be sedentary and less likely to be active. The goal is to develop long-term behaviors in being active.”

Despite the COVID-19 restrictions that have limited in-person instruction at area school districts, the program has been able to continue remotely due to the nature of the context-specific program approach.

“Using this inquiry-based approach, the teachers are using information gathered from the students to help co-create learning environments and curricula that attend to their interests, motivation and learning,” Oliver said. “With the shift to hybrid and online learning scenarios, the participating teachers have already begun to engage their students with student-centered pedagogy as they practice listening and responding to the students over time.”