For nearly 30 years, students from Southern Arkansas University’s health, kinesiology and recreation department have been taking the message of fitness and health to area elementary-age students with fun activities like the annual
fishing derby and the fall festival.
Dr. Margaret Downing started getting her students involved in the community by planning fall carnivals in cooperation with the Magnolia Boys and Girls Club and Waldo schools, said Steve Dingman, HKR department chair.
“I got involved in the fall fests from 1997 to 2008,” he said. “Since then, we’ve also started doing them in elementary schools in Magnolia and Stephens. This year, we have one planned for Lafayette County schools.”
Each year, between 250-350 area children and parents attend the fall festivals.
Students in the School and Community Recreation class are put in groups and are charged with the task of creating an age appropriate game or activity.
“They are graded on their decorations and evaluated on the flow and arrangements they’ve made to adapt each activity to the
needs of the children,” said Justin Pettigrew, assistant baseball coach and instructor for the HKR course. “Group leaders rotate and are graded individually.”
This fall, course participants created activities which included a Plinko station, putt-putt golf, baseball throw and bobbing for apples.
“Preparing for the fall fest takes all of the elements involved in creating and administering recreational programming,” said Dingman. “SAU students learn to adapt activities based on age and motor ability and to properly communicate with
the varying ages while practicing positive reinforcement. The kids love it. It’s always great fun.”
Though the class does do other projects during the fall course, this is the only one that involves community collaboration,
according to Pettigrew.
“We love doing this,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity to get SAU out there in a good light.”