Virtual Sprouts: Web-based Gardening Games to Teach Nutrition and Combat Obesity
We will develop and evaluate Virtual Sprouts: Web-Based Gardening Games is an interactive and simulated version of the First Lady’s Organic Garden in a game-based environment that will target subjects from low income minority populations in Los Angeles including children ages 8 to 11 their parents other family members teachers and the community. Virtual Sprouts will serve as a highly engaging and innovative research education program to improve PreK-12 research career opportunities and the community’s understanding of the health science advances in obesity and nutrition that are supported by NIH-funded clinical and basic research. Our program has the potential to revolutionize STEM education on obesity promote healthy food choices and decrease obesity rates especially in minority youth at high risk of obesity and related disorders. Broad dissemination of Virtual Sprouts will be achieved through our partners including USC’s NCRR-funded Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) USC Family of Schools and the California Science Center. Specific Aim 1: Develop a web-based interactive Virtual Sprouts: Web-Based Gardening Games and web dissemination portal. The game content will build on our successful LA Sprouts gardening curriculum and will incorporate advisory committee feedback to optimize STEM content. The game interface will be grounded in experiential learning theory and developed using a participatory research approach with our target audiences. Specific Aim 2: Disseminate the Virtual Sprouts Web-Based Gardening Games. We will disseminate our game to audiences in three local settings: a) Public Schools: 100 teachers and 3000 children in grades 3-5 in seven schools from the USC Family of Schools. Over 90% of students are from low-income minority populations and over half of teachers are African American or Latino. Our program will include teacher in-service professional development and classroom-based informal science education. b) Community Clinics: We will place kiosks in 3 safety net clinics to reach 83000 patients including 3000 children aged 8-11 and their families from an underserved low income and largely Latino (70%) population receiving public healthcare services. c) California Science Center: We will incorporate Virtual Sprouts into the Science Center’s “SuperKids Academy” an existing community outreach program of the Science Center focused on nutrition and obesity to reach a targeted audience of 1.4 million annual visitors of which over half are from minority populations and 200000 of which are children aged 8-11. All of our dissemination partners have national collaborations and partnerships with peer organizations through which they will disseminate our program. Specific Aim 3: Evaluate the Virtual Web-Based Gardening Games. We will use a mixed design with both quantitative and qualitative approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of our education efforts. We will collect multiple diverse formative and summative data sets related to our program features and goals to measure the impact of our program’s educational content on the obesity research knowledge.