Preschool teachers from the participating sites at a professional development training at Whitman Elementary.
In January 2014, the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs (SDUCPTA) discovered there was an opportunity for a $10,000 Smart from the Start Community Outreach Grant sponsored by the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.
SDUCPTA serves to support nearly 80 units within the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), which is the second largest school district in California with 200 schools and over 130, 000 students enrolled in grades K-12. This district also has over 4,200 students enrolled in nearly 60 low-income state preschool and child development centers.
I was inspired to apply on behalf of SDUCPTA because of California State PTA’s advocacy in early childhood education, as well as being a mother of three children. We were pleased to receive one of the 10 grants awarded to PTA councils, regions and districts.
Materials provided by SDUCPTA given to preschool teachers to carry out activities in the curriculum.
We spent time researching selected sites that would most likely be able to commit to be a part of the project as well as conduct field research on the various types of community-based events that would engage families. Four state preschool sites were identified and marketed to pilot the Pre-K Energy Balance Curriculum from Together Counts™, which teaches kids ages 3-5 about the importance of energy balance: balancing the calories we consume through eating and drinking with the calories we burn through physical activity.
Each of the preschool sites were given a hardcopy of the curriculum available in English and Spanish as well as “Starter Kits.” Professional development trainings provided the preschool teachers with insight on implementing the activities in the curriculum. Preschool teachers were asked to participate in an exercise to read a lesson, share what they liked about it and how they would carry out the activity. They were also asked to share their input on ideas for a parent engagement activity.
Parents at Baker Elementary making “Veggie Superhero” capes.
While the preschool teachers started to implement and incorporate the materials and lessons of the curriculum into their classroom, the next phase of the project was to organize a parent engagement event focusing on healthy lifestyles that included:
- Community-based organizations’ invitation to participate in an Energy Balance Fair.
- Parents given the opportunity to take a nutrition class titled “Rethink your Drink” led by Social Advocacy for Youth of San Diego (SAY San Diego).
- Families given the opportunity to visit different booths and participate in games and arts and crafts.
While most of the funding was geared towards materials and resources for the Energy Balance Fairs in the school district, the remaining funds will be used to invite the families to participate in a summer program in an effort to continue and reinforce the concepts of energy balance.
Each of the four preschool sites were given assets that they could keep should they want to make this an annual event such as a custom banner and “ChooseMyPlate” themed games.
This program includes a nutrition and cooking class led by SAY San Diego, an interactive grocery store tour and encourages families to participate in the Summer Fun Café program offered by the Food Services of SDUSD. This fall, I will continue to engage with the teachers by creating an online forum for them to share and support ideas for the curriculum.
Overall, the project was a success! We reached nearly 200 students by introducing them to the energy balance curriculum and nearly 90 families participated in each of the Energy Balance fairs.
Celeste Bobryk-Ozaki (center) with the teachers that piloted the curriculum.
Celeste Bobryk-Ozaki has been a member of PTA for nearly 10 years and has served as a PTA local leader for four years prior to serving as a board member of the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs. She is now serving as the president of San Diego Unified Council of PTAs for the 2015-2017 term and strives to continue to support and advocate for all children as well as to strengthen and leverage existing partnerships to build a stronger community.