Maureen Weiss, Ph.D., professor in the School of Kinesiology, was recognized with the Legacy Award, the highest honor given by Girls on the Run International at its annual Summit in Austin, TX, in January. Girls on the Run is a 501(c)(3) organization and physical activity-based positive youth development (PA-PYD) program designed to enhance girls’ social, psychological, and physical skills and behaviors to successfully navigate life experiences. The program uses running and other physical activities as a platform for teaching life skills and promoting holistic health outcomes for girls in grades 3-8. The organization’s reach is national—in all 50 states with over 200 local community councils, 50,000 volunteer coaches, and over 1.5 million girls served since inception. The organization is committed to diversity—serving girls from all walks of life and backgrounds. Nearly 50% of girls receive subsidized registration fees to enable them to attain the psychosocial and behavioral benefits of participating in each season’s 10-week program.
Weiss’ Legacy Award was based on eight years and hundreds of hours devoted to serving this non-profit organization—as a board member, consultant, speaker, and contributor to curricular development and effective coach delivery—as well as conducting an independent longitudinal evaluation study that demonstrated strong and lasting positive impact of program participation on girls’ life skills learning and psychosocial and behavioral outcomes—confidence, competence, connection, caring, character, and contribution to community and society. The study received widespread attention in a press release last August and Weiss presented the study results at the Summit meeting in a presentation titled, “How and Why Girls on the Run is an Exemplary Positive Youth Development Program.”
An independent evaluation study by Maureen Weiss, Ph.D., professor in the School of Kinesiology, shows that Girls on the Run, a national physical activity-based positive youth development program for elementary-age girls, has a profound and lasting positive impact on girls’ confidence, competence, connection to others, character, caring, and life skills.
Girls on the Run is a nonprofit organization that uses running as a vehicle for teaching life skills to girls in third through fifth grades. The intentional life skills curriculum and mandatory annual coach training set Girls on the Run apart from other activity programs. The three-part curriculum teaches understanding of self, valuing relationships and teamwork, and exploring one’s connection to the world.
Weiss’s study revealed that:
Girls on the Run participants were significantly more likely than girls in organized sport and physical education to learn and use life skills including managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others or making intentional decisions.
97% of girls said they learned critical life skills at Girls on the Run that they are using at home, at school and with their friends
Girls who began the program with below-average scores dramatically improved from pre- to post-season on all outcomes—competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring. This shows that girls who might need a positive youth development program benefited most from their participation.
Girls who were the least active before Girls on the Run increased their physical activity level by 40% from pre- to post-season and maintained this increased level beyond the program’s end.
The video and the website illuminate the study findings through an interactive format. The study has also been publicized on Globe Newswire.
“Girls on the Run participants scored higher in managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others, and making intentional decisions than participants in organized sport or physical education,” said Weiss. “Being able to generalize skills learned in the program to other situations such as at school or at home is a distinguishing feature of Girls on the Run compared to traditional youth sports and school PE, and suggests that the intentional life skills curriculum and coach-training program can serve as exemplars for other youth programs.”
Members of the Human Sensorimotor Control Lab (HSCL) in the School of Kinesiology attended the Hmong International Academy for a community outreach event last Thursday evening, March 30. The Academy, a culturally specific school for children Pre-K through Grade 8, asked several departments at the U of M to attend Family Fun Night to share information about their work and research for families and their children who attend the school.
Kinesiology doctoral students Jessica Holst-Wolf, Arash Mahnan and I-Ling Yeh set up three mini-stations demonstrating EMG (electromyography) technology, postural control, and how to measure haptic sensitivity, or sense of touch, and provided general information about kinesiology and movement science. HSCL lab director is Kinesiology professor Jürgen Konczak, Ph.D.
Sara Hansen and Tyler Tegtmeier, both Recreation Administration students in the School of Kinesiology, have developed a report for the Three Rivers Park District to research recreation opportunities for underrepresented populations in the district’s public parks. The 27-page report of their findings provides recommendations to reduce barriers to parks and recreation facilities by underrepresented groups. The report was presented to the organizations involved in the study for their consideration and determination of next steps.
Under the leadership of Tony Brown, Ph.D., Recreation Administration instructor in the School of Kinesiology and associate director of the Department of Recreational Sports, students participated in this year’s Resilient Communities Project (RCP), working with the City of Brooklyn Park. The students enrolled in the Recreation Administration major applied their knowledge and skills to a real-world project with a community partner. They worked with the City’s in its effort to address nature-based recreation opportunities and equitable use of athletic fields.
The RCP is an organization dedicated to connecting communities in Minnesota with diverse expertise of University of Minnesota faculty and students to address pressing local issues in ways that advance sustainability and resilience.