Shaping Healthy Lives Improves Health in Durham!

Shaping Healthy Lives (SHL) is a quality improvement project led by CCSA’s Technical Assistance (TA) team supporting health, nutrition and physical fitness for young children. SHL served 84 children at three child care centers and two family child care homes in Durham this year with on-site and/or virtual coaching. SHL increased best practices at the classroom and center level related to children’s eating habits, physical activity and outdoor learning experiences. 

SHL implemented Go NAPSACC (Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care) and the Be Active Kids (BAK) curricula as tools for establishing and reaching directors’ and teachers’ health, nutrition and movement goals for their programs. 

Go NAPSACC is a collection of online tools that help early childhood educators improve the health of young children by supporting lifelong healthy eating habits. The child care programs’ directors had the opportunity to participate in a Nutrition Collaborative presented by a Go NAPSACC staff member. The Collaborative focused on menu planning, reading nutrition labels, and ways to involve teachers as role models in healthy eating habits. Participants altered their menus and made efforts to include locally grown produce as well as fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables at their child care programs.

Teachers also had the opportunity to participate in an Outdoor Play and Nutrition Collaborative presented by a Go NAPSACC staff member that discussed supporting children in developing healthy relationships with food, being role models during mealtimes and feeding practices. The project supplied resources such as posters, books, music and picture cards that were used to promote healthy eating. Teachers focused on increasing physical activity and wellness. 

The teachers also attended a three part Be Active Kids training through Go NAPSACC that focused on the importance of daily physical activity. Each classroom received weekly coaching sessions on the playground. During these sessions new play equipment, such as hoops, scarves, balls, parachutes, activity mats, and more were introduced to the children. The TA specialist then modeled specific games and activities on the playground. As the various pieces of equipment and activities were introduced to each class, items and lesson plan ideas were left with each teacher to be used on a regular basis. The specialist worked with teachers and directors to make sure a variety of props and equipment were available to children each day in order to encourage more gross motor play and movement. By the end of the fiscal year more than 15 types of gross motor resources were delivered to each classroom. A variety of storybooks related to health and nutrition were introduced during group activities with the children as well. These books were then placed in the classrooms’ libraries for future use. 

The TA specialist modeled indoor gross motor movement and music activities as an alternative to outdoor play. Song lists and props such a dancing scarves, shakers and ribbons were given to each classroom. The specialist also collaborated with directors and teachers to design their center’s custom Outdoor Learning Environment based on the Best Practice Indicators from the Natural Learning Initiative. All five programs installed sandboxes, mud kitchens and additional shaded areas. Four of the sites installed a looping bike path. Each program installed either a raised garden bed area or began using container gardens to grow flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables. Teachers involved the children in planting, watering, harvesting and preparing fruits and vegetables for tasting. 

The specialist worked with each program to involve families by sending home a series of Parent Pages. Each activity bag included a fun prop, such as a ball and ideas for activities that the children could do with their families. This was a particular hit with the children!

The process continues for effective change. Each program has continued to invest financially, in addition to the grant funds awarded to them, as they work toward fully implementing their Outdoor Learning Environment design plans!

Shaping Healthy Lives planted many seeds of hope to help the five programs sprout into beautiful blooms.

The CCSA Technical Assistance department offered the Shaping Health Lives project in Durham County during the 2021 -2022 fiscal year thanks to funding from Durham’s Partnership for Children, a Smart Start Initiative and from Duke Community Cares, along with other private donations.