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Healthy Youth Program

K – 5 Nutrition Curriculum


Background

Childhood obesity has become epidemic in the United States. Results from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicate that an estimated 17% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese compared to only 5% in 1971. According to the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, obesity rates for 10 to 17-year-old children range from 10% in Oregon to 22% in Mississippi.

Because of this alarming increase in childhood obesity, health behavior modification and nutrition education of school children have become a major focus area of LPI’s outreach and education program. In the 2009/10 school year, we conducted a year-long study to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity among elementary school children in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades at a school in Corvallis, Oregon. The study was a success: 75 percent of enrolled students completed the study and improved their dietary and exercise habits, and many students lost weight (LPI Fitness & Nutrition Study). One important lesson we learned, however, was that we need to further develop and improve our nutrition education curriculum to increase its effectiveness and have a greater impact on the children's health behavior. To this end, we recruited a highly qualified graduate student—and former elementary school teacher—from the Department of Mathematics and Science Education at Oregon State University, who will help us develop a professional, effective nutrition curriculum.

Description of the Project

The nutrition curriculum will reflect the core tenets of LPI regarding a healthy diet and lifestyle and will be divided into three age-appropriate segments:

  • Kindergarten and 1st grade
  • 2nd and 3rd grade
  • 4th and 5th grade

This allows a student entering kindergarten to be exposed to the entire nutrition curriculum over the course of his/her elementary school years. We believe that a successful nutrition curriculum needs to be engaging and tied to other subject areas that the students are studying in school, making the content of the curriculum more meaningful and applicable. It will also make it easier for the teachers to incorporate the curriculum into their lesson plan. Therefore, our curriculum will include many hands-on activities that relate to math, science, and English language skills.

Goals and Objectives

The goal of this project is to develop a curriculum that can be taught to teachers in the form of workshops, so that they themselves can teach the curriculum to their students ("Teach the Teachers"). This will increase effectiveness of the program and reduce costs, since there is no need for a separate instructor. Instead, the teachers can use the curriculum as they see fit and as it fits into their lesson plans. We believe this will increase the likelihood that teachers will take time out of their busy lesson plans to educate their students about a healthy diet and lifestyle, factors that also contribute to successful learning.

Teachers attending the workshops will receive a complete workbook, including the "manipulatives" required to teach the curriculum. Manipulatives will include didactic items such as imitation food (e.g., to teach portion size), food cards, or story books for younger children. Teachers completing the workshops will also earn continuing education credits.

We plan to offer these workshops at an affordable cost to teachers in the Corvallis School District and our neighboring school districts in the Willamette Valley. It is our hope that we will eventually be able to offer these workshops in school districts nationwide.

Sponsor

This project has been funded by Joan Facey.