Food, Health & Choices
Funded by the US Department of Agriculture, Food, Health & Choices is an exciting program for fifth grade students that combines wellness policy implementation with classroom lessons. The policy portion, called Positively Healthful Classrooms is classroom level wellness policy implementation where the foods served during snacks and any celebrations are healthy options. Additionally, physical activity is incorporated into the classroom day through “Take a Dance Break” a program where students dance to two songs at least once and ideally twice each school day. The classroom lesson series has 23 sessions taught throughout the school year and teach nutrition concepts through inquiry-based science explorations. The students explore key guiding questions, conduct experiments and simulations and have a readers’ theater. These lessons motivate students to choose more fruits and vegetable and choose less soda, fruit punch, other sweet drinks, candy, chips, and fast foods. Students are also encouraged to choose more physical activity and choose less television and video games. Students learn skills for how to successfully change their behaviors. Twenty schools are currently participating, divided and randomly assigned to four groups: classroom lessons and wellness policy, lessons only, wellness policy only, and delayed control. During the 2012-13 school year we are conducting a student outcome evaluation that is assessing students’ heights, weights, percent body fat, eating and activities behaviors, and theory-based mediators of behaviors change.
Check back to see updates of our progress with this promising program!
Choice, Control, & Change (C3) Intervention Study
The objective of this five-year NIH Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant is to examine the effectiveness C3, an obesity-prevention curriculum. C3 is the middle school module of the Linking Food and the Environment Curriculum Series. C3 consists of 20 inquiry-based science lessons taught over 8-10 weeks to address potential mediating variables from social cognitive and self-determination theories. The C3 curriculum combines inquiry-based science education processes to address outcome expectations and self-determined motivation (the combination of competence, autonomy, and enjoyment) with goal-setting skills to address perceived barriers and self-efficacy to improve eating and physical activity behaviors related to obesity risk. A student outcome evaluation was conduced in New York City with 10 middle schools during the 2006-07 school year. During the dissemination phase in 2007-09 the curriculum has been taught in several sites in Michigan, in Hayward, CA, and in Philadelphia, PA. Please visit evidence-base for C3 for more information.
Creature 101 Serious Computer Game
The objective of this two-year NIH Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant (2009-2012) is to work in partnership with Stottler Henke Inc. to develop, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of a "serious" educational computer game, Creature 101 based on the Choice, Control, & Change curriculum. In the game, student care for the health of creatures and along the way learn why healthful dietary and activity choices are important and how-to incorporate healthful choices into their lives, while setting and tracking personal behavior change goals. The behavioral and potential mediators are the same as for the C3 curriculum, listed above. The Creature 101 game was evaluated in schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn and shown to be effective at significantly reduced their frequency and amount of intakes of sweetened beverages, frequency of processed packaged snacks and showed some reduction in the sizes of snacks they consumed. They had significantly higher knowledge scores compared to the control group.
Understanding Nutrition Education in Schools
There are many programs, run by non-profits, universities, botanical gardens and others that go into our schools and conduct nutrition education. These programs teach children about gardening, cooking, MyPlate, our food system and other nutrition topics. Yet, we know little about how these programs are distributed in schools and even less about how schools integrate these programs into the core functioning of our schools. We are currently conducting research to that will help us gain these understandings and these can help lead to policies that will help to increase nutrition education in our schools.
The EarthFriends program began in the mid-1970s as the educational arm of the Nutrition Education Resources Project. EarthFriends provides direct services to children, parents, and teachers that are all becoming "EarthFriends", "eating foods that are good for me and good for the planet." To make sense of how to translate this into every day food choices, EarthFriends frames activities around the seven chapters of the whole story of food: growing, transporting, changing, packaging, buying, cooking and eating, and disposing or reusing. The EarthFriends Learning Laboratory at Teachers College contains a full working kitchen where up to 30 students can visit to prepare and eat a meal. At EarthFriends, meals are based around fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, primarily purchased at Farmers' Markets.
Linking Food and the Environment (LiFE) Curriculum Series
Linking Food and the Environment (LiFE) is a collaboration of the Science Education and Nutrition Education programs at Teachers College Columbia University. It was established in 1996 with the vision of promoting scientific habits of mind through thoughtful, inquiry-based activities that integrate the study of food, food systems, and environmental and personal health. National Gardening Association publishes the first two modules of the series, Growing Food and Farm to Table & Beyond. Growing Food explores the question, "How does nature provide us with food?" Farm to Table & Beyond explores the question, "What is the system that gets food from farm to table and how does that system affect the environment?" Choice, Control, & Change, that explores the question, "How can we use scientific evidence to help us make healthful food and activity choices?" is the third module of the series. For more information, http://www.gardeningwithkids.org/life-series-curriculum-set.html
The development, evaluation, and dissemination of LiFE has been funded by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) RR 25 RR12374 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Additional funding for publication was provided from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation for the Rethinking Food, Health, and the Environment: Making Learning Connections, a joint project of the Center for Ecoliteracy and Teachers College Columbia University. For more information, www.rethinkingschoollunch-life.org.
Since 2006, we have worked in partnership with Harlem RBI (www.harlemrbi.org) to provide cooking and food-based lessons to the third through sixth grade students that participate in Harlem RBI's after school and summer camp program.
Art and Healthy Living
In summer 2010 we worked with Studio in a school to develop Art & Healthy Living (www.artandhealthyliving.org), an innovative program that combines visual arts with nutrition instruction to motivate children to eat fresh, seasonal produce and make healthful eating choices. The pilot launched in 46 public elementary schools across New York City in 2010-11, and since then has reached over 10,000 students.
The Kids Cook Monday
In fall 2010 we worked with The Mondays Campaign to pilot test The Kids Cook Monday (www.thekidscookmonday.org), the families who attended the three week pilot kept cooking. The Kids Cool Monday website is an excellent resource and posts new recipes each Monday to give families the resources they need to make a weekly commitment to cook and eat together every Monday.
Teachers College Community School
Since the school opened in fall, 2011 we have provided weekly cooking and nutrition lessons that have the goal of helping the students develop a strong appreciation and liking for whole plant foods, and bring the cooking skills they learn home to their families.
i2 Camp is a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics camp for middle school students. The camp’s first summer is 2013 and in our course, Eating Real for You and the Planet, campers explore some reasons why what you choose to eat determines who you are as well as the health of the earth. By the end of the week campers become advocates for food justice and a supporter of a more sustainable food system.
Rethinking Food, Health and the Environment: Making Learning Connections
In partnership with the Center for Ecoliteracy, Berkeley, CA, we convened two five-day Professional Development Institutes for teams from schools and school districts, with most teams consisting of an administrator, food service person, one or more teachers, and a parent. The goal of the Institute was for schools to combine a positive food environment with education about the interactions of food, food systems, personal health, and the natural environment through the LiFE curriculum series. This project was supported by a grant of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.