The Augusta University Literacy Center, a program that aims to deliver literacy-related community service, sits in the backyard of Newman Tennis Center, home of Jaguar tennis.
During tutoring sessions, students at the Literacy Center have always been able to watch through windows as athletes practice and matches are played. But they’ve never been a part of the action.
For the past two years, Dr. Chip Darracott, associate professor of kinesiology, and Dr. Paulette Harris, Cree-Walker Professor of Education and Literacy Center director, have had conversations about combining literacy center tutoring with tennis lessons.
“Our students are making such phenomenal gains that we ought to see what we can do to further that,” Harris said. “In the span of a month, we have students making an academic year’s progress. If we add athletic activity, what more can we do?”
This year, Darracott and Harris began researching the effects of pairing aerobic activity with tutoring.
“The idea is that if students do something aerobic before or after tutoring, what changes does it make,” Harris explained. “Will it help their selective attention? Will they be able to focus on their tutoring more if they’ve just had a physical activity session versus if they’ve been more sedentary?”
Last spring, the pair conducted a pilot study, and on Oct. 24, the tennis lessons began. Augusta University kinesiology students volunteered to help Darracott teach tennis to the Literacy Center students. Following lessons, Harris worked with the students.
Harris and Darracott are excited about the potential of their research and are hoping that the athletic/academic model they created will expand beyond the Literacy Center.
Ultimately, Harris envisions the Literacy Center becoming about more than just tutoring.
“We want the Literacy Center to be thought of as a lifestyle literacy center,” she said. “You come to learn to read or read better, but critical thinking skills are improved and physical and intellectual well-being is improved.”