Helen Bateman has been awarded funds to conduct a research project in the form of a survey administered to students in Grundy County middle schools that will allow her team to collect valuable information about the psychological and social problems that middle‑school students are facing in rural Southern Appalachia. More specifically, this survey is focused on the relationship between different types of aggressive behavior (relational and physical, proactive and reactive), victimization (physical and relational), self‑esteem, social skills, and sense of community in the classroom, and how they differentially impact children based on differences related to body mass index (BMI) and special needs. Findings from this research will enable them to expand their present community‑engagement program (Healthy Bodies &Healthy Minds) in order to address such problems. In addition to helping children, they will also provide Sewanee students and faculty with multiple new opportunities to engage in place‑based learning, and to learn how to be effective and informed citizens through their work on this project.

The impact of our program will be at the local level (at present in five participating Grundy county schools) as we intend to share a final report of our findings with the Grundy school district. Through the publication and presentations of our findings we also expect to reach an audience of educators and researchers at an international level.

We also expect the ensuing after‑school program to positively impact middle school students in the Grundy County school system as well as Sewanee undergraduate students who will be participating in the implementation and assessment of the program through the courses. Faculty participating in this program will also be positively impacted. At present, two Sewanee faculty members will be participating in this research but our hope is to attract more collaborators once the second phase of our program is under way (the Let’s Be Friends program).

The activities will begin in May 2017, and is expected to be a multi-year project.