Smyth County VA teachers receive training for new elementary PE curriculum

Teach It! Learn It! Live It! Curriculum to be introduced this Spring


Saltville, VA (March 30, 2017) – A brand new curriculum is being developed for health and physical education in Smyth County, Virginia elementary schools that differs quite a bit from traditional physical fitness activities. $58,815 in funds from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY) were awarded to United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Healthy Communities Action Team (HCAT).

United Way’s HCAT Manager, George Owens, facilitates the teamwork between the HCAT and the Smyth County health and physical education teachers and aides as they develop a new curriculum to be implemented in Smyth County elementary schools called “Teach It! Learn It! Live It!”.

The curriculum will teach elementary school students physical fitness activities such as biking, fishing, golf, disc golf, and swimming that they can continue, long after they graduate from school – “physical fitness for a lifetime”. The new project links nearly 2,200 elementary school students in Smyth County to physical activities and outings that align with Southwest Virginia’s abundant natural resources and recreational infrastructure.

The development of the “Teach It! Learn It! Live It!” curriculum has created partnerships between United Way of Southwest Virginia, Smyth County Schools, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and Premier Design Disc Golf. Within the last two weeks, eleven health and physical education teachers and aides from all seven elementary schools were trained in fishing (March 23) and disc golf (March 30) at Northwood High School in Saltville, in preparation for the new curriculum.

Tim Barr, Owner of Premier Design Disc Golf and instructor for the disc golf training said to the HPE teachers, “Teach your kids to enjoy the game, have a good time, don’t be ultra-competitive, and when the round’s over, see who wins, and be happy with it.”

Initial introduction of some activities will begin this Spring, with the full curriculum set to be in place by Fall of this year, and the teachers think the kids will benefit from these types of wellness activities. Cindy Burkett, HPE Instructor from Chilhowie Elementary, said, “In the schools, we call what we teach now ‘wellness activities’ – things they can continue to do outside of school now and beyond school years into adulthood. A lot of the units that used to be taught – the basic sports like football, basketball, baseball – have kind of fallen by the wayside as far as physical education units and we’re now focusing on lifetime wellness sports. More kids can find success – plus, it’s something they can do forever if they desire. My goal is always to teach the kids something physically active that they will enjoy enough to keep doing for life.”

George Owens, Smyth County HCAT Manager for United Way of Southwest Virginia, said, “No school system in Southwest Virginia has anything like this, and that’s what I think is special. We call this curriculum the Smyth County model, and our dream is to take this to scale – to other counties in Southwest Virginia.”

Development and implementation will continue in Smyth County elementary schools through the 2017-2018 school year, and the curriculum is expected to outlive the grant cycle for many years to come.

United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia by forging unlikely partnerships, finding new solutions to old problems, mobilizing the best resources, and inspiring individuals to create lasting change in the lives of over 350,000 residents from all walks of life. United Way of Southwest Virginia mobilizes thousands of people to give, advocate and volunteer across 5,860 square miles (approximately 15% of the state of Virginia) in the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, and Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit