Retooling KidQuest

Nutrition program to find new life on Internet

After years of helping children and their parents think about healthy nutrition and physical activity makeovers, KidQuest is doing its own makeover.

Jake Devine, left, and Tyler Kilpatrick play a game as a part of a KidQuest game at Camelot Elementary School in Brookings in December 2009. The program for fifth-graders focuses on exercise and nutrition and uses teen teachers. In Brookings, those teachers were members of the Family Career and Community Leaders of America chapter.

Becky Jensen, a registered dietitian with SDSU Extension, rolled out the nutrition and physical activity program in 2004-05 to Arlington fifth- and sixth-graders. As the program expanded into other eastern South Dakota communities, she trained the first set of teenagers from the Brookings and De Smet school districts to go into the classroom
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to present the six 45-minute lessons. Since then, SDSU faculty and other Extension staff have joined the KidQuest team in revisions, research aspects and funding prospects. Today, with a restructured Extension staff and curriculum revisions, including the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, KidQuest is taking a new form. “SDSU Extension has a wonderful mode of educational outreach with It’s an effective and feasible way to train teens to teach KidQuest in their local schools. Not only will KidQuest curriculum materials be available online, but we are working collaboratively with a team to develop online learning modules for teen teachers,” says Jensen, whose title now is Extension associate/grant coordinator.

Budgets necessitate new methods

In years past, SDSU Extension staff and some SDSU students

traveled more than 100 miles to provide on-site, one-day teen trainings. “These on-site trainings are great and effective, but they are expensive and time intensive,” says Jensen. “With budgets tight all around, cheaper yet effective delivery mechanisms need to be implemented. “It’s also difficult to schedule trainings around a busy teen’s life, which makes online training such an attractive alternative.” Meanwhile, until online learning modules can be fully developed and piloted, some teen training is still being done face-to-face.

Lessons start in Tea

Fifth-graders at Camelot Intermediate School in Brookings do a food group activity.

On Sept. 21, Extension and other SDSU staff and graduate students from the Transdisciplinary Childhood Obesity Prevention Program at SDSU planned and provided four hours of training for teens from Tea, who traveled to SDSU. The teens then presented the KidQuest program to all the sixth-grade classes in their school. In a post-program survey of a portion of those students, they reported increased fruit and vegetable consumption, decreased sugary drink consumption and greater frequency in reading the nutrition food labels, Jensen reports. KidQuest lesson topics include MyPlate, think your drink, label reading, portion sizes, eating out, snack choices, fruits and vegetables, grains and breakfast, dairy and media messages. Two new lessons — healthy body image and the benefits of physical activity — are being developed by SDSU graduate students in the Transdisciplinary Childhood Obesity Prevention Program this fall.
Lessons to resume in Brookings

After working with the KidQuest program since 2005, Joline Dunbar at Brookings High School is anxious to have the program resume at her district, where it was taught in the 10 fifth-grade classrooms by members of the Family Career and Community Leaders of America chapter (FCCLA). “This is one of the first activities the kids sign up for. They absolutely love it,” Dunbar says. In fact, when her students heard that the program was to be on the shelf for retooling this past year, they said, “‘We’re going to get a committee together anyway.’ They ask all the time, ‘When are we starting?’” says Dunbar, a family and consumer sciences teacher. So when Jensen is ready to pilot the new version of KidQuest, she has students ready to take it on.

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Jensen and Dunbar met with teachers and administrators at Camelot Intermediate School Nov. 8 to begin the process. Dunbar hopes her students can begin teaching lessons this winter on wise food choices and the virtues of physical activity.

Students of all ages benefit

With obesity becoming a problem at a younger age, there are lessons that ought to be taught. And, of course, the benefits of those lessons flow both ways. Dunbar’s students “get a kick out of being a role model. They can’t be in a store stocking up on pop because these kids are looking at them. The (FCCLA) kids could see that they improved their health and nutrition because they have to be role models,” she says. Take-home challenges from the weekly lessons carry the impact to the fifth-graders’ households. Dunbar relates stories of a fifth-grader on a grocery shopping trip that informed his mother that her product choice “has a lot of sugar in it” and of children who went to a convenience store to buy snacks for a sleepover but had to go to a grocery store to find healthy snacks.

The key to success

“The reason the program is so successful is because they do get the kids to live this, not just hear it in the classroom,” Dunbar says. Alex Cooley, a freshman early childhood education major, was a teen teacher for KidQuest all four of her years at BHS and the student leader for the last three years. She organized the presentations to the 10 classrooms by teams of three to four BHS students per classroom. While that presented some scheduling challenges, the program itself is “really positive,” Cooley says. Hands-on activities, such as measuring out the amount of sugar contained in various drinks, helps students understand the messages, she says. Simple physical activities, such as rolling dice to cue a set of pushups or jumping jacks, end every lesson. Establishing healthy habits in fourth- and fifth-grade should lead to healthy lifestyles in high school, Dunbar says.

Dave Graves

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