PowerPlay: Kids Measuring Their Bodies’ Responses to Physical Challenges

Power Tower, the tallest part of the PowerPlay exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Houston. Students are able to plot their own way through this exciting vertical climbing structure.
BioEd Online - Baylor College of Medicine

Project Audience

Children ages 5-12 their families and teachers

Subjects Addressed

Fitness energy balance nutrition data collection and clinical research

Project Description

The Children-s Museum of Houston and Baylor College of Medicine are developing an exhibit and related programs entitled PowerPlay. The project will engage children and their families in inquiry-based investigations that promote understanding positive attitudes and healthy behaviors related to physical activity diet and the effects of physical activity on the body. 1. Engage children and families in traditional and non-traditional exercise challenges that prompt them to increase or continue their physical activity. 2. Combine novel and fun physical challenges with opportunities for children to measure their bodies-responses to those activities. 3. Provide a safe and motivating environment for children to test their physical skills and to help them develop and awareness that regular physical activity is essential to their health. 4. Enable children and families to plan and track their own physical activity and nutrition. 5. Facilitate children-s and families- understanding of research and the research process as it relates to exercise nutrition and their own health.

Dissemination Strategies

1. 4500 square foot Exhibit: The exhibit will be a focal point in the Museum for the 600000 plus visitors that enter the Children-s Museum each year. 2. BioEd Online: Classroom curriculum and online teacher training. 3. PowerPlay Planner: Online database interface that visitors can use to track their data in the exhibit and beyond. 4. Informances: Short extension activities facilitated in the exhibit by CMH staff and Baylor graduate students aimed at further engaging children in small group hands on activities. 5. Take-aways: Information sheets displayed within the exhibit that families can take home. They contain references to helpful resources and extension activities to be done at home. 6. School Field Trips and Afterschool Programs: One hour combination workshop and exhibit visit facilitated for students during the school day and after school. 7. Family Learning Events: Programs delivered at elementary campuses and community centers that offer a variety of activities to experience at the event and also at home. 8. Family Learning Activity Guides: Activity compilations to be used by teachers or parents in the classroom or at home which include engaging hands on activities.

Project Evaluation(s)

Evaluation of BioEd Online will be conducted by Baylor’s Center for Collaborative and Interactive Technologies (CCIT) staff. Evaluation of the exhibit and other supplemental programs will be conducted by Cecilia Garibay and the Children’s Museum staff. FRONT-END EVALUATION – The focus of this phase has been to obtain information regarding children’s understandings of the topics that will be addressed in PowerPlay. The project team conducted a literature review to determine what is already known about children’s understandings of the PowerPlay topics which has informed a series of interviews in process that are examining how visitors interact with these concepts as they are presented in the context of the exhibit and programming. Formative Evaluation – This phase is aimed at testing the usability and effectiveness of exhibit components and supplemental activities like BioEd Online and Informances. The project team will test exhibit and activity prototypes with visitors to determine how well visitors are able to interact with the component and what messages they are taking away from the experience. Remedial Evaluation – The goal of remedial evaluation will be to determine how PowerPlay is working once it has been opened to the public. Methods will include tracking timing and observations of visitor interactions as well as exit interviews. Summative Evaluation – This phase will assess the success with which each of PowerPlay’s goals has been met. Specific areas of inquiry will include aspects as: 1) messages visitors take away from the exhibit; 2) ways in which the exhibit has helped visitors increase their awareness of their own health and the health-research process; 3) the extent to which visitors use home activities over time; and 4) ways in which the exhibition has influenced visitors’ personal lives and lifestyle choices/behavior. Data collection during the summative phase will consist of pre-exhibit surveys and exit surveys to measure impact of PowerPlay on visitors. Post-visit follow-up phone interviews will be conducted twice; once a few weeks after families have visited PowerPlay and then several months later.


In response to nationally identified needs for new educational approaches related to children’s fitness and diet the Children’s Museum of Houston (CMH) and Baylor College of Medicine (Baylor) propose to create an exhibit entitled “PowerPlay: Kids Measuring Their Bodies’ Responses to Physical Challenges.” The proposed Phase I/II project will engage children and their families in inquiry-based investigations that promote understanding positive attitudes and healthy behaviors related to physical activity diet and the effects of exercise on the human body. Specific Aims are to: 1) engage children and families in physical challenges and related activities that prompt them to increase their physical activity; 2) enable children and families to plan and track their own physical activity and nutrition; and 3) facilitate children’s and families’ understanding of research and the research process. PowerPlay will make available the following products and services: 1) an interactive long-term exhibit at CMH (4500 square feet) that engages visitors in a set of interconnected novel and rigorous full-body physical challenges integrated into a complex multi-story structure; 2) planning and tracking devices and strategies (PowerPlanners) for children and family members to record their bodies’ responses to a host of physical activities and record their progress on a password-protected personal Web log; 3) inquiry-oriented demonstrations and facilitated activities (PowerScience) developed and led by educators graduate students and postdoctoral fellows; 4) a pre/post museum field experience Web resource containing six downloadable guided inquiry lessons professional development “virtual workshops” and opportunities to interact with other teachers who are using the lessons via facilitated discussion forums on the same site. At Baylor the partnership will involve scientists clinicians educators and graduate students. The Houston Independent School District the Natio’s seventh largest school district also will collaborate in evaluations of the exhibit and related classroom components and in project dissemination. Project evaluation will encompass: front-end assessments of project concepts and strategies; formative assessments that include prototyping of each exhibit component and field-testing of classroom activities and professional development sessions; and summative assessments of immediate visitor responses to the exhibit and follow-up telephone interviews to achieve better understandings of impacts over time. During its lifetime of at least 15 years the exhibit is anticipated to engage more than six million visitors.

Resources for Sharing

PowerPlay products are in development and will be launched March 13 2009.