Choice Control and Change: An Inquiry-based Science Education Program for Children Overweight

  • Project Description

    Develop implement evaluate and disseminate a new inquiry-based science education middle school module “Choice Control and Change” (C3). The C3 teacher curriculum guide consists of 19 innovative standards-based lessons. The lessons provide students a clear conceptual understanding of the complex roles of biology and the 21st-century food system in influencing personal behavior health and body size to develop science agency and competence in navigating today’s complex food system and sedentary environment to move toward healthful eating and physical activity practices. At the same time students learn about health sciences and health science careers. Foster and facilitate collaborations between working scientists in the areas of obesity and chronic disease and researchers in behavioral nutrition and science education. The classes who receive C3 go on field trips to the Exercise Physiology Lab at Teachers College and the Body Composition Lab at St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital Center. They also will have a panel of health professionals from the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) at Rockefeller University come to their school.

  • Abstract

    The number of overweight U.S. children has doubled in the past two decades with 25% of 6- to 19-year-olds estimated to be overweight or “at risk for overweight.” Urban minority children are at even higher risk. The results from our comprehensive evaluation of our SEPA funded Phase I & II (1997-2004) project Linking Food and the Environment (LIFE) show that children are very interested in science when it involves an inquiry-based approach and uses content that is personally meaningful such as food. The specific objectives of this project are to develop evaluate and disseminate a curriculum “Choice Control and Change” or C3 that would be an extension into middle school grade 6 or 7 of LIFE which is for grades 4-5. More specifically C3 will: Provide students clear conceptual understandings of the complex roles of biology and the 21st-century food system in influencing personal behavior health and body size Build skills and attitudes that lead to competence or personal control in navigating today’s complex food system and sedentary environment Focus on improving healthful eating and physical activity practices as a means to overweight prevention Increase interest in the health sciences and health science careers. C3 will also provide children with the opportunity to meet science and health education standards After development and formative evaluation in year 1 C3 will summatively be evaluated in year 2 in a pre- and post-test intervention control group design involving four New York City middle schools randomly assigned to condition within pairs with 20 C3 classes and 20 comparison classes (about 1000 students total). The 20 classes in control schools will receive the curriculum in year 3. Evaluation results will be used to revise the program. Dissemination in years 4 and 5 will involve four national sites in addition to New York with 120 classes (3600 students) being fully funded to receive C3. A leader teacher model will be used to institutionlize C3 to help assure that schools continue to implement C3 after SEPA funding.

  • Dissemination Strategies

    Support five implementation centers to reach 120 teachers and 2500 students. The 2007-08 school year is our first dissemination year. We are continuing with schools that were part of our evaluation in New York City working in Lansing and Jackson Mich. and in Hayward Calif. In the 2008-09 school year we will work in Philadelphia and St. Louis. To institutionalize C3 at these places we will support two to three lead teachers who can facilitate the continuation of C3 after the implementation coordinator. Publish the curriculum. The National Gardening Association is publishing our previous SEPA modules “Growing Food” “Farm to Table & Beyond” and “Food & Health” currently. It will publish C3 in 2009.

  • Project Evaluation(s)

    We have two major evaluation goals: Determine the impact that C3 has on students Determine the effectiveness of the dissemination and track institutionalization of C3 Determine the impact that C3 has on students (2006-07 school year) – We used a pre-post intervention-control group randomized within pairs design. Ten New York City middle schools were put into pairs based on key criteria: leadership enthusiasm for C3 science philosophy general academics percentage of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch ethnicity and size. One school from each of the five pairs was randomly assigned to intervention (20 classes 561 students); and the other to comparison condition (21 classes 572 students). Surveys to measure student outcomes: “Is Science Me?”: This 26-question questionnaire measures students’ attitudes towards science in general science class and interest in science careers. “Understanding Science”: This 20-question survey measures students’ cognitive understandings about science inquiry dynamic equilibrium metabolism body systems and other C3 topics. Some questions are from past New York state 8th grade science tests. “Tell Me About You”: This 124-question attitudinal questionnaire measures the students’ beliefs values and competence (science agency) toward six eating and activity goals: Eat more fruits and vegetables Drink more water Eat fewer package snacks (candy sweets chips) Eat less often at fast-food establishments Drink fewer sweetened beverages Get more physical activity especially through increased walking and stairs. In the C3 lessons they learned scientific evidence to support the importance of these goals and skills to implement them in their lives. “EatWalk”: This 30-question survey measures students’ behaviors in the areas of the six goals listed above. Results for behavior and attitudinal data based on ANCOVA: An ANCOVA comparing post-test results of intervention and control group holding pre-test scores as constant were as follows: students in intervention schools intentionally walked more (p<.05) intentionally took more stairs (p<.01) and spent less time on sedentary activities including watching TV or playing video games/using the computer (p<.05). The intervention students reported eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking fewer sweetened beverages at meal times and when snacking or in between meals and snack times (all p<.05). They also reported eating fewer packaged snacks especially candy and salty snacks (p<.05). Finally the intervention school students reported ordering smaller sizes at fast-food restaurants and ordering value or combo meals less often (p<.01). Intervention students increased their: perceived benefits of healthful eating; self-efficacy in their ability to drink fewer sweetened beverages eat fewer times at fast food restaurants eat fewer small packaged snacks and walk and take stairs more often; and their competence in eating healthfully and being physically active (all p<.05). Determine the effectiveness of the dissemination and track institutionalization of C3: Through analysis of the observations and records of the site implementation coordinators and records of the discussion we have with teachers at each site we will determine the fidelity to the curriculum when C3 is spread to a wider scale. Additionally this year we are conducting a student outcome evaluation in the 49 intervention classes in Michigan using a simplified survey covering all the same issues that the students can complete in one class period. We will also track how well C3 is institutionalized at our five-implementation sites through using our lead teacher model.

  • Resources for Sharing

    C3 teachers- manual student materials and evaluation instruments – Complete lesson plans and students reading and activity sheets that go with the lessons and evaluation surveys we use to determine student effectiveness.

Project Audience

Middle school students their teachers and their families

Subjects Addressed

Human biology chronic disease etiology and prevention nutrition and health science careers