Active Science Program Having National Impact

The success of Merrimack's Active Science continues to grow under the leadership of Associate Dean of Health Sciences Kyle McInnis.

Active Science, created by McInnis in 2011, is an innovative social enterprise using experiential-based learning to increase physical activity and promote academic achievement among children. Founded in the City of Lawrence at the Merrimack Valley YMCA and now spreading across the U.S., the program focuses on underserved children and communities.

Since the program’s inception, McInnis has secured three separate grants from the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for over $1.6 million, including $100,000 in 2012 for planning the project; $500,000 in 2013 for pilot testing and proof of concept; and most recently, $1 million in 2016 to scale the initiative throughout YMCAs, schools and other youth organizations nationwide.

“We are excited to continue the process of bringing Active Science to other locations around the country,” said McInnis. “Our students are seeing firsthand the positive impact of entrepreneurial ventures like Active Science that address important health, educational and social issues.”

More than 75 graduate and undergraduate students have served on the Active Science team as research assistants, fellows, or enrolled in directed study. Other members of the team include Health Sciences professors Kevin Finn and Zi Yan, and program administrators Jacquelyn Rudis, Lindsey Mattos and Breanne Dowdie.

Francis Kenneally, the chief operating officer of the Merrimack Valley YMCA, heads up partnership efforts, which includes Cape Ann Enterprises, developers the Active Science mobile application and cloud-based data management. The mobile app collects children’s activity data and turns it into science lessons through a gaming experience.

Last month, Jasmine Hall Ratliff, program officer at the RWJF, was on campus for a national active science symposium hosted by Merrimack, which brought over 40 professionals from local and national YMCA organizations from as far as Texas. Ratliff spoke on “Leveraging Active Science to Build a Culture of Health at Your YMCA.”

“For the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Active Science ties together two important fields: physical activity promotion and academic achievement,” said Ratliff. “Active Science basically demonstrates that if a child is physically active and healthy, that child learns better.”

Over the past year, Active Science has expanded to approximately 25 locations, including places like Baton Rouge, Louisiana; San Antonio and Fort Worth, Texas; Tampa/Clearwater, Florida; Rochester, New York; Columbus, Ohio; and, locally, in the Merrimack Valley, North Shore, Providence, and Southern New Hampshire.

The program is gaining a variety of media attention and has been highlighted by such media outlets as Channel 4 in Boston, WBZ Radio, Merrimack Valley Magazine, Eagle-Tribune and Yahoo Finance.

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