Cleveland School District and Delta State University College of Education and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation

Duration of partnership: 1 year
18 volunteers
Impacts 120 students

The Healthy Campus/Community Initiative in the College of Education at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, receives support from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation to provide a sustainable model for a healthy culture worthy of replication. As part of the commitment of the Initiative, the Cleveland School District is a major collaborator in spreading the message of health and wellness. Using resources from various counterparts within the College of Education, Healthy Campus/Community Initiative planners created a free nutrition, health, and academic curriculum entitled Centering on Recreation, Education, and Nutrition (C.O.R.E.) Nutrition Afterschool Program.
 
The C.O.R.E. Nutrition Program began as a research pilot program in three local elementary schools to foster healthier students through focused educational afterschool activities. The overall goals of the program are to increase awareness in older elementary children and their parents of the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, to encourage behavior modification during meal selection, to promote healthy eating at home, and to instill a foundation of health and wellness for improved lifelong health habits. The following three specific program objectives targeted 125 fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade participants: (a) positively affect behavior choices, attitudes, and perceptions toward nutrition and physical fitness, (b) encourage participants to change negative eating behaviors into positive eating behaviors, and (c) engage participants in moderate to vigorous physical activity that will increase cardiovascular fitness and introduce lifelong recreational activities.
 
Of the six elementary schools within the Cleveland School District, three schools were selected to participate in the C.O.R.E. Nutrition Afterschool Program. Bell Academy, Cypress Parks Elementary, and Parks Elementary allowed students to enroll in this free program by filling out an application. No student was denied participation. These programs met two days a week for twelve weeks from September 2011 through December 2011.
 
The C.O.R.E. Nutrition Afterschool Program staff consisted of six pre-service academic teachers from the Division of Teacher Education, three pre-service physical education teachers from the Division of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, and three pre-service dietetic students from the Coordinated Program in Dietetics in the Division of Family and Consumer Sciences. All 12 staff members provided academic instruction through tutoring, health, and nutrition-related lesson plans specifically designed to align with the core curriculum content standards set forth by the Mississippi State Department of Education. On Monday and Wednesday afternoons from 3:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. students were provided a variety of learning modalities to engage all students: tactile, kinesthetic, auditory, and visual. All lessons were developed by a team consisting of a registered dietitian, physical education professional, and teaching professional.
 
Pre-tests were administered to all participants and their parents during the first week of the program, with post-tests administered to these groups during the last week of the program. Pre-tests were utilized to determine baseline data concerning the participants’ knowledge and attitudes toward physical activity and nutrition. Post-test data was used to determine the success of the program and the validity of material taught.
 
Activities
 
12-week program focused on health- and nutrition-related topics designed to explore disease-related conditions. Each school conducted an afterschool health fair for teachers, parents, and friends. Students participated in making an exercise video to be distributed in schools for exercise on days of inclement weather. Students participated in a cooking competition in which they modified recipes, tasted, and scored their peers’ work toward preparing healthy cuisine.
 
Results
 
Pre-tests and post-tests completed by students revealed 24.7% decrease in the amount of time spent on the computer away from school; 29% increase in being aware that half of grains consumed should be whole grains; 21.6% increase in knowing that children should eat at least three vegetables a day; 16% decrease in those who felt excluded from activities; 12% decrease in those who were bullied; 37% increase in recognizing that being overweight can lead to health problems.

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