Intervention of PhysicaL Activity in Youth
Project Title: Impact of an Environmental & Curriculum Change on Children’s Obesity Related Behaviors
Funded by: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: National Institutes of Health
Project Timeline: 9/15/2009-6/30/2014
This research study seeks to understand how physical environments and curriculum within those environments affect physical activity behaviors in elementary aged children. The study employs a 2 (environmental intervention vs. no environmental intervention) by 2 (curriculum intervention vs. no curriculum intervention) factorial design (see figure 1) at 24 ethnically diverse elementary schools with measurements done each year for baseline, intervention and post-intervention data.
Learning Landscapes will be used as the environmental intervention. SPARK Active Recreation and Balance First will be the curriculum interventions that will be delivered for 8 weeks in the fall and 8 weeks in the spring over the two intervention years. Schools are randomly selected to receive or not receive the curriculum interventions.
This project design will be implemented in two waves. Wave one will run from year 1(baseline measurement year) to year 4 (follow-up year), and wave 2 will run from year 2 to year 5. Prior to randomization, 12 Learning Landscape elementary schools will be matched to 12 non-Learning Landscape elementary schools, according to the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch, student’s race and ethnicity, and school size. Six of the matched pairs will be randomly assigned to the curriculum intervention.
Four tools are being used to assess behavior changes in the elementary children. Within the first year of baseline measurement, one school from each of the matched pair groups (total of four schools) was selected to participate in the accelerometer, Biometric measures and questionnaire. All schools receive the SOPLAY and environmental measurements.
• SOPLAY, or System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth is an observation tool being used at all schools to measure children’s level of activity during recess times. SOPLAY is designed for observers to simultaneously measure children’s physical activity levels and the characteristics of the built environment. Observers scan identified target areas at a set time and code the physical activity of each individual in the area as sedentary, walking, or very active. These measures have been proved valid through heart rate monitoring. Observers are able to count children within specific areas, the main activity that is happening within that area, and gender. In addition to physical activity, observers record temperature, time, presence of supervision and organized activities, as well as whether equipment is available in the area.
• Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was selected to store, manage and present data related to each schoolyard. GIS has provided the means to integrate the non-spatial data to the spatial data related to the environmental measures of the study. Each schoolyard has been mapped using GIS and finer details related to the schoolyards are currently being added. Environmental measures are taken on each of the schoolyards to relate physical activity spatially within the schoolyard and on the equipment.
• Accelerometers, or activity monitors, are being used to measure all activity of select 1st, 3rd and 5th grade students within and outside of school hours. Similar to pedometers in size, accelerometers will be worn by children within this study to validate the SOPLAY protocol and to be able to capture the physical activity of children outside of school hours. Throughout the duration of this research study 550 children will be asked to wear accelerometers for 6 days. During this time parents will also be asked to record other activity of the children. Biometric Measures such as height and weight are taken for 1st 3rd and 5th grade students, from which a BMI calculation is made, in addition the accelerometry measurements. All data will be kept anonymous.
• A questionnaire is given to 580 fourth and fifth grade students from randomly selected schools to determine students’ perception of their environment and how that might affect their behaviors. The questionnaire will ask children about their physical and social environments during school and within their neighborhoods. The questionnaire utilizes 30 items to assess self-reported activity levels, perception of school environment, attitudes toward activity, self-efficacy, nutrition knowledge, self-reported eating habits, and stages of change in regard to physical activity in students.
Descriptions of Intervention
Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK) Active Recreation (AR) Curriculum
SPARK AR curriculum is for use in active recreation environments outside of the Physical Education classroom, for this reason the intervention will occur during the recess periods. SPARK AR is designed to provide substantial opportunities for all children to actively engage in movement and focuses on the development of a variety of basic motor and manipulative skills, such as throwing, catching, and kicking. Another focus of the program is development of positive social skills and the ability to get along with others by reinforcing ideas such as sharing equipment and demonstrating cooperative behavior.
SPARK AR is a curriculum of SPARK, a research-based, public health organization of San Diego State University Research Foundation and is dedicated to creating, implementing, and evaluating programs that promote lifelong wellness. The goal of SPARK is to increase participation in activities and personal physical skill levels, while increasing confidence in the ability to be physically active and promoting a positive attitude toward physical activity and health.
SPARK PE principles were adapted and applied to physical activity settings outside of physical education classes. This adaptation was tested and further developed through 3 key studies; PowerPlay, Project M-SPAN and Project BOLT. All three studies were conducted in a variety of after school activity settings with the result being that the current SPARK Active Recreation (AR) curriculum targets ALL environments outside of physical education. Years of research, field-testing and implementation has shown this curriculum to be effective for ages 5-14. The training, curriculum and equipment used have been designed to be extremely user friendly to facilitate as much movement as possible in a limited amount of time. A final but critical component to the SPARK curriculum implementation is the enthusiasm of the instructor. The curriculum must be delivered in a way that truly inspires kids to want to move and have fun. Instructors take an active role in the instruction and also provide further inspiration for kids to engage in fun physical activity for a lifetime.
Balance First is a classroom based curriculum developed by the University of Colorado Denver’s Center for Human Nutrition that teaches children about the importance of balancing physical activity and food intake. A key strategy employed by the Balance First program is to integrate the curriculum into existing physical education classes without interrupting and taking away too much time from the original curriculum.
By training PE teachers to teach the BALANCE FIRST curriculum in elementary schools, the program hopes to bring the concept of energy balance to school children in a fun, dynamic learning environment. Not only is the concept of healthy, balanced nutrition and physical activity a part of the curriculum, but the concept of balancing the two makes Balance First an innovative supplement to physical education.
Learning Landscapes, has transformed elementary schoolyards into attractive and safe multi-use playgrounds tailored to the needs and desires of the local community. Through collaboration between University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning and Denver Public Schools the Learning Landscape (LL) Project began. Learning Landscapes is a city, school district and university collaboration that has been working with UC Denver Landscape Architecture graduate students and community members to transform neglected schoolyards into aesthetically pleasing and fun multi-use parks designed to reflect the cultural heritage of the surrounding community. DPS spends an average of $400,000/schoolyard with the intent of leveraging these funds for academic and physical education enrichment. Each schoolyard contains common elements but is uniquely designed to address the needs of specific schools and communities. Additionally, each school must commit to keeping the schoolyard open for public and community use outside of school hours. Because there is no longer bussing in Denver Public Schools, each school is truly a community school with neighborhood schoolyards. The sustainability of each schoolyard relies on the stewardship of the community to maintain each site. For more information please visit: www.learninglandscapes.org
Observations were conducted in 12 schools across the Denver metro area with 5 observations conducted per school. There were a total of 60 days of observations and 4,668 scans.
Using GIS, 12 schools were mapped, 6 of which had Learning Landscapes and 6 of which were non-Learning Landscapes. 1,592,360 square feet were mapped in a total of 188 zones.
Four schools participated in the accelerometer portion of the research study, which included 16 classrooms total comprised of 1st, 3rd and 5th graders. A total of 277 children participated, of which 255 had 100% compliance and 97% consent rate. There were 1,843,277 minutes of data recorded.
Questionnaires were administered in four schools for a total of 16 classrooms of 4th and 5th graders.
There were 257 completed questionnaires and 66% consent rate. The 257 surveys were entered with a 1.02% margin of error.
Racial breakdown included less than 1% American Indian/Native Alaskan, 2% Asian, 4% African American, 66% Hispanic, and 27% white. Of the students, 72.69% are on Free or Reduced Lunch.
Curriculum Intervention - SPARK
In Wave 1, there were eight SPARK Stars trained and six schools receiving curriculum. The schools totaled 2,308 possible student participants.
In Wave 2, an additional six schools will receive the curriculum with 4,963 possible student participants.
At the end of the study 12 more schools will receive curriculum resulting in up to 11,808 possible student participants.
Curriculum Intervention - Balance First
In Wave 1, there were 6 PE teachers trained and 6 schools will receive curriculum for a total of 2,308 possible student participants.
In Wave 2, an additional six PE teachers will be trained and six more schools will receive curriculum for 4,963 possible student participants.
At the end of the study, 12 more PE teachers will be trained and 12 more schools will receive curriculum. This will lead up to 11,808 possible student participants.