News & Events
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Head Start Body Start Intervention Has Increased Physical Activity for More Than 28,000 Children
RESTON, VA , November 9, 2011 — More than 1,500 grants to improve Head Start centers' outdoor play spaces and educate staff, children and their families about the value of physical activity and playing outdoors, have led to a dramatic increase in the outdoor activity levels of more than 28,000 preschool children over the past three years, say officials from Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play (HSBS), an initiative of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). Outdoor play helps young children to connect with the natural world, while tapping into many health benefits, including increased moderate to vigorous activity, vitamin D exposure, increased immunity and better sleep as well as playing more creatively.
In a report summarizing the initiative's first three years of operation, HSBS officials announced that some 28,310 children at 1,547 Head Start centers around the country benefited from having new playground equipment or enhanced outdoor play spaces as a result of the HSBS grants. And upwards of 75 percent of the parents of those children and staff members reported that the grants increased the amount of time that the children spent playing outdoors. HSBS found that physical activity among children at the centers increased by 47 percent. (Children were observed moving 36% of the time at baseline, and 53% of the time after the intervention.) Moderate-to-vigorous activity showed even more impressive gains, increasing 143% (from 7% to 17%).
"As Head Start Body Start enters its fourth year," said HSBS National Center Director Mariah Burton Nelson in releasing the report, "we're thrilled to learn from our evaluation team that hard work on the part of the HSBS staff and 704 physical activity consultants is paying off with real results. The bottom line is: Because of HSBS, thousands of children are more active than before." "Our findings indicate increased physical activity among children in the 1,547 Head Start centers receiving play space grants," Burton said, as well as "a meaningful change in play space quality for those centers. Based on direct observation at selected grantee sites, children became more active, more 'moderately to vigorously' active, and more 'vigorously' active-- both indoors and out-- after outdoor play spaces were improved and physical activity consultants were involved."
AAHPERD launched HSBS in 2008, after receiving a four-year, $12 million grant from the federal Office of Head Start to promote physical activity for Head Start children. During its first three years, HSBS awarded 1,547 play space grants of up to $5,000 each to 1,547 Head Start centers. Many grantees also received help from AAHPERD physical activity consultants, who provided on-site instruction in physical education for preschoolers and a variety of games, activity suggestions. Special online webinars were also created for early childhood educators.
Among other highlights, HSBS found that:
- 94 percent of the stakeholders who were surveyed at the Head Start centers agreed or strongly agreed that the play space grant had exerted a positive impact on the amount of children's physical activity outdoors.
- 90 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the grant had exerted a positive impact on the way teaching staff promotes physical activity.
Grantees also noted meaningful change in play space quality and a "welcoming atmosphere" which makes a place for teachers and adults to feel comfortable and entice them to stay outdoors longer, increased 70 percent. To improve the play spaces, grantees purchased with the grants to buy stationary play equipment; shading and resurfacing; natural elements, such as log benches and garden areas; sensory elements, such as drums, bells and rain sticks; safety features; educational and developmental equipment, and wheeled equipment, such as tricycles, scooters, wagons and tricycle paths.
HSBS compiled its three-year program overview using surveys of Head Start parents and staff members, case studies at six of the centers and site visit reports from physical activity consultants, among other data-gathering methods. The evaluation was conducted by Paul Wright, associate professor of kinesiology and physical education at Northern Illinois University. A Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Wright is an internationally recognized expert in physical activity programming for underserved youth.
HSBS is entering its final year of federal funding for the program, but AAHPERD officials plan to maintain the initiative with corporate and foundation support.
"There are several other opportunities for future research that we would like to explore," said Dr. Wright, including results indicating that:
- Girls uniformly demonstrated lower levels of indoor and outdoor activities than boys
- Caucasian children were more active than Hispanic and Asian children indoors at post-grant assessments
- Both African American and Caucasian children were more active than Hispanic children outdoors at post-grant assessments
HSBS Center Director Mariah Burton Nelson added, "We're very pleased that the HSBS intervention has had a positive impact on the Head Start children, parents and staff. When children develop the habit of physical activity at an early age, it will surely have a positive lifelong effect. That is why we believe it is so important to continue our work to get all young children moving."
Head Start Body Start
Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play (HSBS) is a project of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR), which are associations of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). Funding for HSBS is provided by the Office of Head Start (OHS), Administration for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human Services.
The purpose of HSBS is to increase physical activity, outdoor play and healthy eating among Head Start and Early Head Start children, families and staff. HSBS is assisting Head Start programs in creating healthy learning environments, both in and outside the classroom, through structured and unstructured physical activity that leads to the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of young children and reduces obesity and its associated costs. HSBS is proud to be part of the school readiness solution for tens of thousands of America's children. For more information about activity resources and how to create a play space, go to: http://www.aahperd.org/headstartbodystart/
Paula Keyes Kun