A Cool Evaluation Project at the Shedd Aquarium

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Sarah Welch

by Sarah Welch MPH, Evaluation Manager

Opened May 22, 2009, the Polar Play Zone at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is the museum’s first permanent exhibit designed specifically with children (aged 2-7) in mind.  The Shedd Aquarium had designed the Polar Play Zone to be interactive and interesting to children as well as encourage physical activity while in the exhibit.  It includes four different areas for children to explore: (1) The Shallow Seas – where kids can play in tidal pools, touch sea stars and visit with sea otters; (2) The Deep Ocean – an underwater viewing area of the dolphin habitat; (3) The Icy South – the penguin habitat with a play area where kids can dress up like penguins and climb and slide up and down rocks, imitating the birds; and (4) The Icy North – where kids can learn about beluga whales and other cold water creatures while playing with a submarine.

Over the summer of 2010, CLOCC staff evaluated the physical activity levels of children visiting the Polar Play Zone as well as measured general activity levels of children visiting other parts of the museum.  Accelerometers, devices that measure the amount and intensity of movement, were worn by children between the ages of 3 and 7 during their visit to the museum.  This gave us information on how active children are while visiting the museum in general.  To see how active children were in the Polar Play Zone, we used an observation method called SOPLAY to count how many children were sitting or standing still, walking, or running while in the exhibit.  Using these two methods, we were able to gather information on activity levels of children visiting various parts of the museum as well as the Polar Play Zone in particular.  This information will help us know if museums provide a good source of physical activity for children in addition to their educational benefits. 

The data from this project are still being analyzed, so no results are ready at this time.  When they are finished, we will be sure to share them.  For more information on this project or CLOCC’s other evaluation activities, contact me at 312-573-7767 or swelch@childrensmemorial.org.

Summer intern Justine Bandstra and I dress the part in the Penguin Habitat. Justine assisted in the data collection.

Dr. Becker Goes to Washington

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Adam Becker

by Adam Becker, PhD, MPH, Executive Director

With Congress back in session, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my recent visit to Capitol Hill on September 16.  I was invited to serve on a panel by the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) to brief Congress about the important role that children’s hospitals play in childhood obesity prevention.  NACHRI staff set up the panel to represent the broad range of roles that hospitals play – from community-based prevention to intensive clinic-based behavior change interventions, to surgical and other specialty care for those children who are in urgent need of treatment.  It was an honor to be among distinguished colleagues from hospitals in New York, Maryland, and Washington State.  It was a privilege to hear from a very brave young high-school senior and her equally courageous mother as they described the challenges and the heartbreak that their family faced dealing with childhood obesity. 

Staff members from the offices of more than 30 U.S. Representatives and Senators came to learn about childhood obesity and what hospitals and hospital-based programs were doing.  I couldn’t help but think about how important it had been to childhood obesity prevention that First Lady Michelle Obama took such a public stand on the issue.  I believe that this visible show of concern helped to bring so many people into that room.  I told them about the many partners who make up CLOCC – more than 1,000 organizations in Chicago and beyond who are at the “front lines” of obesity prevention; working to make sure that kids and families know what the elements of a healthy lifestyle are, understand the risks of not making healthy choices, and have access to environments that make healthy choices easier where they learn, play, and live.  I told them how the health care system was an essential component of the battle against obesity but that doctors alone cannot solve the problem. 

As I listened to the other panelists talk about how complex and challenging it is for them to find the resources and models they need to do the very complicated and hard work of treating overweight and obese children, I thought about how much harder it would be if those of us fighting to improve nutrition and physical activity for children weren’t there trying to keep kids healthy enough that they didn’t need treatment. 

I was truly humbled to be in one of the very buildings where decisions get made every day that affect children and families.  Decisions about how much money our schools will get to provide food to children.  Decisions about whether our transportation system will accommodate those who want to walk or ride their bikes for at least some portion of their daily commute.  Decisions about how much of the fertile soil across the U.S. will be used to feed people vs. animals vs. vehicles.  Decisions about how many children will have health insurance and what the quality of that insurance will be.  And yes, decisions about reimbursement to health care institutions for the basic and specialized services that are so essential to protecting children when they are overweight or obese.

Congress headed home for vacations or to work on their re-election campaigns before they decided on some of the critical issues facing children and families.  I am frustrated that Congress went home with so much work yet to do, but I continue to be hopeful because so many people showed up that day to hear from us and because so many champions for children and families are working every day in Chicago, in Maryland, in New York, in Washington State working hard to make sure kids grow up healthy and happy.

Project SOAR Takes 5-4-3-2-1 Go! Promotion to New Heights

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Jill Zubrod-Hernandez

by Jill Zubrod-Hernandez MPH, Health Educator

This past summer was a flurry of 5-4-3-2-1 Go!™ outreach thanks to our wonderful partnership with Project SOAR.  Project SOAR is a multifaceted family literacy program working with Head Start affiliated children, parents, and teens to develop literacy, leadership and employment skills.  It is housed at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  Learn more about Project SOAR here.

This has been a great example of a partner organization taking the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! message and running with it!  First, I trained the Team Leaders in the message and taught them how to lead games that were developed to reinforce the message recommendations.  (Learn more about CLOCC’s 5-4-3-2-1 Go! message here.)  Then the message spread like wildfire as the Team Leaders trained their Teen Nutrition Aides (200+ teens) in the message and related activities.  Once trained and ready to spread the message, the teens were deployed to 70+ sites across Chicago participating in the Summer Nutrition Program.  In total, over 1,250 children were reached with the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! message multiple times throughout the summer.  For more information on Project SOAR, contact Sam Austin, Youth Team Leader, at saustin3@uic.edu or 312-413-7403.

Children at one center applying what they have learned by sorting food and activity model cards into categories based on the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! message.

Teen Nutrition Aides commonly got the request to do “stations” with the preschool age kids. Here are children in two stations, one mastering their hula hoop skills, while the other practices tossing and catching a ball.

Following their physical activity stations, the Teen Aides made sure to have the children stretch out!

Creating a Healthy Environment at Cameron School

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Mara Lazdins

by Mara Lazdins, School Programs Intern 

Recently, Cameron Elementary School, located in West Humboldt Park, successfully completed CLOCC’s  Healthy School Environment Assessment, a tool that helps schools identify current practices, policies, and programs for promoting healthy eating and physical activity. Through the process, 16 staff, with assistance from CLOCC and the Greater Humboldt Park Community of Wellness, identified several areas for improvement. In the action plan, they outlined specific goals including: incorporate nutrition education into the classroom and expand opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day.

Cameron, a school with a population of over 1,000 students, does not have the space or capacity to offer physical education on a weekly basis for every child. However, the school does provide 20 minutes of recess daily for grades K-8. To address their concern that students were not getting enough exercise, Cameron staff immediately recognized recess as an opportunity to maximize students’ time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity, through structured, high energy activities.

On September 23, CLOCC staff (Health Educator Jill Zubrod, Community Networker Ed Boone, School Programs Coordinator Anna Barnes, and I) trained a group of four recess monitors and two physical education teachers on the 5-4-3-2-1-Go!™ message as well as games to promote the message. This was CLOCC’s first workshop specifically designed to support a school in implementing the message and activities into a school’s daily schedule, and it was received with high enthusiasm.

The group learned several games that could be incorporated into recess, and CLOCC provided the equipment and tools to enhance these activities such as hula hoops, buckets, jump ropes, and plastic food models. The participants also brainstormed solutions to some of their concerns with CLOCC staff and agreed to try some new methods and strategies over the next few weeks to address specific concerns. CLOCC will return to Cameron in a few weeks to visit a few recess sessions in action, gather feedback from the recess monitors and PE instructors, and provide ongoing technical assistance and support.

For more information on CLOCC’s school-focused work, contact Anna Browar at 312-227-7104 or abrowar@luriechildrens.org.

Promoting Healthy Eating in East Humboldt Park

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Miguel Morales

by Miguel Morales, Community Networker

A stroll through the broad, tree-lined sidewalks of Paseo Boricua, Division Street between California and Western, reveals the sights, sounds and smells of Puerto Rico – pastel colored buildings with Spanish-style facades reminiscent of old San Juan stand on either side; vendors selling coconut ice cream in small paper cups ring the small bells on their push carts; and the scent of sofrito, the tangy base of Puerto Rican cuisine, wafts in the air.  This last sensory experience is probably the most common one, given this neighborhood is the restaurant and business district of East Humboldt Park.

If you walk into one these restaurants, you might see a table tent featuring a healthy menu item that contains fresh produce. This is part of a new initiative by CLOCC partner Community Organizing Obesity Prevention in Humboldt Park (CO-OP HP), a project of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC). In 2009, CLOCC helped to fund Buen Provecho, a project in which local Puerto Rican restaurants modify one of their menu items to feature fresh produce and prepare them in a healthier way. Currently, the restaurants involved are La Bruquena, Coco, La Plena, Papa’s Cache Sabroso, Nellie’s and Café Colao.

In 2004, the PRCC, CLOCC and other partners formed CO-OP HP as a response to the high rates of overweight and obesity among children in West Town and Humboldt Park, which surpassed 60%. CO-OP HP began to engage the neighborhood in programming aimed at changing the built environment and addressing access to healthy food available to the community. CO-OP HP through Buen Provecho is also working with local bodegas to stock and sell fresh produce or products that contain fresh produce – see the photos below.

For more information on CO-OP HP and Buen Provecho, go to http://prcc-chgo.org/coop/ or www.clocc.net.  You can also contact Jose Luis Rodriguez, Program Manager, at joseluisr@prcc-chgo.org.


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Welcome to the new CLOCC blog!  We look forward to sharing more in-depth information about the work we do – our projects, people, and partnerships.  Read, comment, and share!