Archive for the ‘SPARK’ Category

Recap: 2015 SPARK Institutes

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Thank you to all 2015 Institute attendees!

Over 360 participants attended the SPARK Institutes in San Diego this summer.  We hosted two NEW Institutes – SPARKabc’s (Classroom Activity & Recess) and PE Technology.  The new Institutes were a big hit!  Thanks to everyone who attended these new trainings.

Here are the group shots for each Institute – stay tuned for 2016 Institute dates to be announced later this fall.


Early Childhood Institute 2015

After School Institute 2015

After School Institute 2015

PE Technology Institute 2015

PE Technology Institute 2015

SPARKabc's Institute 2015

SPARKabc's Institute 2015

K-6 Level 2 Institute 2015

K-6 Level 2 Institute 2015

K-2 PE Institute 2015

K-2 PE Institute 2015

3-6 PE Institute 2015

3-6 PE Institute 2015

Middle School PE Institute 2015

Middle School PE Institute 2015

High School PE Institute 2015

High School PE Institute 2015

Happy 25th Anniversary to SPARK!

Monday, May 19th, 2014

How can SPARK be 25 when I’m only 39??

But it’s true!  In June, 1989 a couple of “relatively young” Professors from San Diego State University, Drs. Jim Sallis and Thom McKenzie, received a large award from NIH (National Institutes of Health) to create, implement, and evaluate an elementary school physical education program that could maximize health and behavior related outcomes, and eventually (if successful) become a nationwide model.  Project SPARK (Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) was born 25 years ago.

As they say, the rest is history.  Today, after many more research and special projects from Early Childhood through University levels, SPARK is referred to as, “The most researched and field-tested physical education program in the world.”

While the data tells an impressive story about significant student outcomes in physical activity, fitness, motor/sport skills, academic achievement, enjoyment of PE, activity levels away from school, program sustainability and more, there are a few lesser known stories from the early years of SPARK.

Did you know?

  • Jim Sallis thought of the name SPARK and the acronym
  • The first SPARK logo was orange and black (scary!) and the colors were voted on by kids in the study
  • One of the original consultants on the first SPARK study was Dr. Bob Pangrazi.  And Bob came back and spent a couple weeks in San Diego with us during our M-SPAN (Middle School Physical Activity and Nutrition – funded by NIH) project that ran from 1996-2000.
  • Kecia Carrasco was Jim and Thom’s first hire, and Kecia is still with SPARK today, 25 years later!
  • BJ Williston worked on the pilot study from 1989-1990 and after a hiatus to work on other studies/projects, she came back to SPARK again about 10 years ago and is now a Lead Trainer.
  • I met my wife Wendy in 1990 when the intervention began and we were married in 1991.  She was one of the elementary classroom teachers at a school we were working with.
  • SPARK won the Governor’s Commendation Award from California Governor Pete Wilson in September 1993
  • The SPARK dissemination effort began in 1994 (20 years ago) and Poway Unified School District was the first to purchase SPARK
  • SPARK’s Director of Dissemination, Leticia Gonzalez, joined SPARK as a part-time employee after her freshman year at San Diego State and has never left!
  • We used to have two cartoon characters in the pages of our manuals – SPARKle and SPARKy!  They were pretty cute, some of us were sad when they grew up…
  • SPARK’s first “beyond the 50 U.S. states experience” was Saipan in 1995.  I led workshops for the elementary physical education teachers on the island and it was a great experience.  Ironically, we’re sending trainers back there again this month.
  • Jim pronounced me – decreed actually — Godfather of SPARK in 1995.  I have a plaque to prove it!  So, if you want a favor, you’ll need some cannoli…

Over more than two decades, all of us at SPARK have appreciated the opportunity to provide innovative instructional materials, effective teacher training, excellent follow up support, and content-matched equipment to thousands of physical educators and physical activity leaders across the globe.

Thank YOU.

Cheers to another 25 years!

Paul RosengardSpark yellow logo color

1993 Governors Award

SPARK’s Paul Rosengard Receives Honor Award

Monday, April 7th, 2014

At this year’s annual CAHPERD (California Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) SPARK researcher, co-author and Executive Director Paul Rosengard was presented with the CAHPERD Honor Award for his “Outstanding and noteworthy contributions to the advancement of physical education in California.”

“It was special to receive the award in front of a lot of friends and colleagues” Rosengard said.  “I thanked two my mentors Jim Sallis and Thom McKenzie, as well as everyone on our SPARK team.  I felt very humbled and grateful to the CAHPERD board for supporting my nomination.”

A few years ago, Rosengard received a “Past President’s Award” from CAHPERD when he was singled out by Dr. Robin Reese of Sacramento State University.

“Robin was a brilliant writer and teacher and helped many of us think differently about physical education content and instruction.  You might say she went against the grain — a quality I admire greatly – so I was particularly happy to be acknowledged by her.”

This June, SPARK will celebrate 25 years of research (N.I.H. funded in 1989) and 20 years of dissemination.  Read more about SPARK at

Paul CAHPERD Award

How to Use SPARK Integrations

Friday, February 7th, 2014

If you are a SPARK physical activity or physical education program user, you’ve most likely heard about our fabulous, but not-yet-famous SPARK Integrations on the back side of each activity plan. Found next to the Extensions and just above the Tips and Pointers, these little nuggets are a not-so-hidden gem that can be used to help integrate other subject areas into your PA/PE program, or to infuse some wellness messages or physical activity elsewhere throughout the day. Each program has their own unique topics appropriate for the participants of that program.

  • Early Childhood integrations are all of the Academic persuasion and include Art, Literacy, Mathematics, Music, Nutrition, and Science.
  • After School integrations reinforce learning from the activity, increase MVPA (Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity) at home, and coincide with the Think Abouts used at the end of the activity. They are all Home Plays, meaning they give information to kids to use in their home life and include Move More, Character Matters, Fitness Focus, and Food Facts integrations.
  • K-2 Physical Education features Academic, Home, and Wellness integrations.
  • 3-6 Physical Education includes Academic, Home, Wellness, and Fun Fact integrations.
  • Middle School Physical Education has Home, Wellness, Global, and Multicultural integrations.
  • High Schools Physical Education includes Home, Wellness, Global/Multicultural, and Sport Literacy integrations.

Please explain these!

Academic integrations link PE to the classroom and back. These range in subject matter from literacy to math to science. These are one of the many ways SPARK helps to address the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics (Examples: 3-6 Flying Disc: Corner to Corner Give and Go and EC Super Stunts: Animal Movements 1)

Home and Move More integrations promote physical activity at home with friends or family members. (Example: AS Cool Cooperatives: Kin-Ball Cooperative Golf)

Wellness integrations provide tips on nutrition, safety, health, etc. (Example: K-2 Catching and Throwing: Switcheroo)

Fun Facts are only found in the 3-6, but these are some doozies! They include an interesting short story or tall tale that you and your students will get a kick out of and share with others. They are connected to the activity by name or theme, but not necessarily by a straight line. (Example: 3-6 Soccer: Soccer Golf)

Multicultural connect activities to diverse cultures found locally and regionally. (Example: MS Dance: Create a Poco Loco)

Global connect activities and/or units to history, customs, and practices of countries around the world. (Example: MS Golf: Bocce Golf)

Sport Literacy integrations provide useful skill, strategy, or game regulation specifics that pertain to each unit. (Example: HS Badminton: Win the Point)

Character Matters help develop social skills and positive character traits like fair play, initiative, trust, etc. (Example: AS Cool Cooperatives: Hog Call)

Fitness Focus and Food Facts: I don’t think I need to describe these other than to let you know they are great! (Examples: link to AS Great Games: Builders/Bulldozers and AS Super Sports: Mini-Basketball


Sounds cool, but how am I going to use them?

Teachers of physical education and physical activity (PE Specialists, Classroom Teachers, Activity Leaders, Early Childhood Leaders, etc.) use the integrations in a variety of ways. Here are a few ideas:

Read during Warm-ups: As students/participants are warming up (e.g. during Perimeter Move) read the Integration aloud to set the stage for the activity to follow. This works best with the types of integrations that give information about that activity, like the Wellness, Multicultural and Global, Fun Fact, and Character Matters integrations.

As an Extension of the Activity: Many of the integrations are actually hidden extensions in that they change the way the activity is played and the focus has now been placed on something math, literacy, or science-related. These Academic Integrations (found in EC, K-2, and 3-6) can be used during the middle of the lesson as an extension to integrate these academic subjects INTO Physical Education. These vary from a quick science fact about aerobic capacity to a math extension that changes the focus of the game to utilize mathematical skills. (E.g. 3-6 Jump Rope: Jumping Color Tag)  When using any of these, it’s wise to check with the classroom teacher to see if the level of academics is appropriate for his/her class and to prepare for teaching the extension instead of the activity as written on the front page.

Read during Cool-down:  While students are cooling down (e.g. stretching) read the integration and discuss using pair/share. For example, after playing Durango Boot (AS Flying Disc) read the Character Matters integration and ask students to discuss the how competition motivated them in the game with a partner. Call upon 3 pairs to share what was discussed. This tends to work best with Home Plays, Move Mores (in AS), Character Matters (as a reflection on behavior during class) and Sport Literacy (to review rules/concepts learned during the lesson.)

Put on Bulletin Boards: Print copies of the integrations. (For MS they can be found on under each unit’s instructional media in the Planning section, just below Unit Plans but all other programs they are on each activity’s backside.) Post the integrations for each week’s lessons so students can read throughout the week as they pass by. This use works best with all types of integrations except those providing an extension to the activity by changing the focus to something academic. Ask students questions about them during roll-call or warm-up to assess their learning. Reinforce students who respond appropriately.

Share with Classroom Teachers: It’s all great to integrate other topics into PE to help address Common Core State Standards, but what about a little reciprocity? To help integrate PE concepts into academic classes, share integrations with your classroom teachers. If you are a classroom teacher, they could be used as short physical activity breaks and an infusion of wellness facts throughout the day. The types of integrations that work best here are those pertaining to Wellness and any Home Play activities.

Use with the Little Ones: If you are a leader of a pre-school/early childhood program, there are a variety of ways you can use the integrations. They serve as academic enrichment tools for before, during and after a SPARK lesson. Use the Music integrations during circle time and the Art integrations during center time. E.g. “We made an umbrella with our parachute today. Can you draw an umbrella?”  (Example: EC Parachute Play: Umbrella)

An example of a Science integration is a discussion about baby animals in a SPARK activity called Guppies. Math integrations may include the concepts of shapes, counting, and grouping. Many of the Literacy integrations suggested in SPARK can be easily added to circle time because they prompt children to act out a story using a skill learned during movement time. All of the books suggested in the Literacy Integrations coordinate with the lessons and relate to one or more of the following themes: colors, language arts, mathematics, movement skills and knowledge, nutrition, personal development, science, self-image, and social development. (Example: EC Building Blocks: Creative Words and Movements)

The Early Childhood program also includes Family Fun activities (in the bottom left corner on the backside of activity plans) which serve as a type of Home Play to promote physical activity at home with their families.


Please share how you use them!

Have you been using integrations in these or other ways? If so, please share with us at SPARK. Email your ideas at We’d love to share your best practices with the SPARK family!

New Year’s Message from SPARK Principal Dr. Jim Sallis

Friday, January 17th, 2014


Wishing you all an active, healthy, and happy 2014.

I was able to attend the SPARK quarterly staff meeting in December and was pleasantly surprised at the significant accomplishments and progress. These were the most impressive learnings for me.

  • Thousands of teachers and activity leaders were trained, bringing evidence-based physical activity programs to tens of thousands more students.
  • Hundreds of videos illustrating SPARK lessons were recorded and posted online. This is an amazing resource that is much more effective than the printed page. Please use these videos.
  • I saw the first SPARK curriculum book in Mandarin Chinese. SPARK is launching in China, thanks to wonderful collaborators, partners, and advocates.
  • SPARK’s partnership in India continues to grow. These Asian countries are rapidly shedding their traditional active lifestyles, so programs to SPARK more movement are increasingly needed.

We have several new staff at SPARK who will bring new ideas and energy to our important work.  They will help us achieve our mission even better.  

I want to express my appreciation to the SPARK staff for their dedication to the mission of improving the lives of children through physical activity. I thank all of you who use SPARK and recommend it to others.

Have a great 2014.

Jim Sallis

Back to School Jitters: How to Start The School Year Right in PE Class

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Students aren’t the only ones who experience the anticipation the first day of school can bring—teachers do too.

In order to help yourself and your students relax, shake off the first-day jitters, and get a great start to this school year, there are some things you can do. Best of all, you won’t break the budget within the first week of classes.

Here’s how to start the school year right in PE class.

Create a Theme

For many students, the first day of a school year is a magical, exciting time. You can capitalize on their feelings of wonder by creating a fun and engaging theme for your classroom or gym.Spark PE

Depending on the age of your students, you can adopt an undersea theme, a space theme, a professional sports theme, or if you live in a hyper-local area, you can assimilate your theme to match the local college or professional team’s colors.

The benefits of this are many: you will make the kids feel at home, they’ll have something interesting and stimulating to look at, and it will encourage conversation among students who don’t know each other already.

And since you’re in PE, you can integrate fun games and activities into your theme. For example, if you’re theme is all about the LSU Tigers and your class is full of elementary school students, you can create a scavenger hunt using the team’s colors (purple and gold). If you go with a zoo theme, you can create games where your students must point out what animals belong in what climates and what sounds they make.

Careful Commentary

PE class is a time to feel motivated and to grow physically and mentally. As we all know from our day-to-day interactions, a single message can be communicated very different ways, which will lead to very different outcomes. After all, it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it, right?

The point here is that messages should be communicated in such a way to make students, especially the younger ones, feel comfortable, welcome, and encouraged. While PE class is a time for challenges, it is not a time to feel overly pressured or defeated. Children who are less athletic or outgoing than others (which are the ones who need extra encouragement) don’t respond well to the throw-‘em-to-the-sharks or survival-of-the-fittest approach. In fact, it just makes PE the most dreaded part of the day.

Consider using language in a specific way to make your students feel comfortable. Take these tips from our Friendly Phrasing video on our SPARK Trainer Tips page:

  • Rather than shouting, “Laps!”—that dreaded command that is heard mostly as “Keep running in a circle over and over until you’re exhausted!”—try a term like “Circuit.” This more technical, athletic, and interesting term can help students to realize they’re doing something worthwhile and challenging. Running is running, but the way students think about it is what encourages them. Do you want your students to think: running in circles or endurance training?
  • Rather than asking students to “hold hands” which has all kinds of cootie-filled implications, ask them to “join hands.” This more approachable request removes the awkward component for students; especially those in a co-ed class.
  • Perhaps the most important is rephrasing the idea of “winners and losers.” This good/bad dichotomy is what confirms the less agile or social students’ preconceptions that they are failures in PE. Try instead “success and try again.” If your students are practicing shooting a basketball into a hoop, the students who make it can step to the “success” square while the others can step into the “try again” square. This perpetuates the idea that there is no failure; there is no losing. There is only getting back up and trying again with the awareness that it’s okay to not get it right away.

There’s no need for excessive coddling, but until you get the cue that your students are comfortable and having a good time, make sure you pay special attention to word choice. Keep up everyone’s spirits with positive communication and reinforcement.

Continue the Fun

Now that you’ve created this incredibly engaging environment where you’re able to proficiently teach students their lessons in a variety of ways, keep going.

Maintain your theme throughout the year, or switch it up once in awhile; either way, make sure you always give your students an active atmosphere to overcome challenges, think critically, and move, move, move.

If you’re feeling particularly entrepreneurial, why not involve other classrooms too? Wouldn’t it be fun if your students could go to the gym for one or two math classes a semester to get real-life instruction on sine waves or parabolas using the flight of basketballs and volleyballs? The same goes for science class, too. Why not simulate the solar system using students as the planets in the large, planetarium-like gym? Combining these academic disciplines with movement is a great way to help your students truly learn the material instead of allowing them to memorize it.

Give Your Lessons a SPARK

Of course, it’s difficult to maintain the same level of excitement throughout the year that you experience on the first day.

In order to prevent the mid-semester doldrums from derailing your engaging classroom, call on SPARK to add a jolt into your learning environment. These clinically proven methods, techniques, and advice help you reach your children like never before. You’ll be able to ensure that your students are doing more than running laps or throwing tennis balls at a wall.

They’ll be learning. Now that’s a great way to start off the school year right.

CDC’s Community Transformation Grants (CTGs)

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Created by the Affordable Care Act, Community Transformation Grants (CTGs) are aimed at helping communities implement projects proven to reduce chronic diseases – such as diabetes and heart disease. Over $100M is available for the current year, and local/state health departments are a perfect fit for this opportunity!


Letter of Intent: June 6, 2011

Application: July 15, 2011


  • Support evidence and practice-based community and clinical prevention and wellness strategies that will lead to specific, measurable health outcomes to reduce chronic disease rates.
  • To create healthier communities by
  1. Building capacity to implement broad evidence and practice-based policy, environmental, programmatic and infrastructure changes in large counties, and in states, tribes and territories, including in rural and frontier areas
  2. Supporting implementation of such interventions in five strategic areas (“Strategic Directions”) aligning with “Healthy People 2020” focus areas and achieving demonstrated progress in the following five performance measures outlined in the Affordable Care Act: 1) changes in weight 2) changes in proper nutrition 3) changes in physical activity 4) changes in tobacco use prevalence 5) changes in emotional well being and overall mental health


  • Local governmental agencies, state governmental agencies, Health Departments, ministries of health, and other governmental agencies
  • Federally recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages; Tribal organizations; Urban Indian Health Programs; Tribal and intertribal consortia
  • State nonprofit organizations
  • Local nonprofit organizations


CDC Community Transformation Grants Homepage Notice and Application

Before You Apply:

SPARK can help you meet the requirements outlined in the CTGs application!

SPARK offers evidence-based Physical Education, Physical Activity and Coordinated School Health programs targeting pre-K through 12th grade students in and out of school, and our programs have been proven to WORK and LAST.

Click Here to download a detailed document that will explain how you can use SPARK to align with the goals of the CTG. This document includes information that shows:

  1. Alignment to the Strategic Directions and Strategies within the CTGs application
  2. Alignment to CDC’s long-term measures for addressing physical activity and nutrition
  3. Why you should partner with SPARK for your CTGS submission
  4. How SPARK deliverables align with CDC prevention outcomes
  5. Which SPARK Evaluation & Assessment options might be used to support your submission

Next Steps:

Contact Kymm Ballard, Ed.D at SPARK. She’ll ask you a few questions, learn about your current programs, and listen to your vision for creating a healthier community. Together, we’ll create a program that will WORK and LAST.

Kymm Ballard, Ed.D

Partnership Development Specialist

Fueling Student Success with Food and Fitness

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Brain breaks for better focus and concentration…

Healthy eating messages sprinkled throughout the school hallways, cafeteria, and classrooms…

Nutrition education woven into PE and core curriculum K-12…

Where is this happening? Check out West Orange, New Jersey school district!

“Teaching our students to maintain a healthy balance with eating and exercise is our top priority. The SPARK program is helping provide the tools and training to achieve this goal”, shared Corinn Giaquinto, Health and Physical Education instructor, Thomas Edison Middle School, West Orange, New Jersey.

Hats off to Thomas A. Edison Middle School and their entire school district in West Orange. The district has been using SPARK in their physical education department for some time and recently received a grant from Mountainside Health Foundation to fuel student success by adding nutrition education.

Vickie L. James, Registered Dietitian and Director of Healthy Kids Challenge (HKC), the exclusive nutrition education partner for SPARK, was the trainer for the West Orange training, the first ever SPARK and HKC nutrition education training.

“From classroom to PE to wellness council members K-12, the representation and enthusiasm shown at the workshop tells me the commitment this district has to student wellbeing. They truly understand the strategy of using good nutrition and physical activity to create a culture of health in the schools that can do nothing short of fueling student success. This was the first of many great moments down the road for West Orange Schools.”

If your school district is ready to accelerate student achievement by combining physical activity and nutrition education, contact SPARK today. Full day SPARK/HKC nutrition education trainings as well as a new nutrition curriculum in three grade ranges, K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 all are available through SPARK.  Healthy Kids Challenge trainings are tailored to meet school needs for successful implementation of realistic wellness policies, school improvement plans, and TEAM Nutrition guidelines. And SPARK/HKC help you achieve the required criteria for the HealthierUS School Challenge program.

The HKC curriculum, Balance My Day, was developed to align with all HECAT (Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool) standards for nutrition education. This is a new requirement for PEP grant awardees and you won’t find many nutrition education programs that address it.

Stay tuned for exciting happenings and updates from West Orange schools! SPARK and HKC wish them well in their commitment to student health!

Top 10 Reasons to Use PECAT with PEP Grants

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

The purpose of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) provides grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) to initiate, expand, or enhance physical education programs, including after school programs, for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The priority is the initiation, expansion, and improvement of physical education programs (which may include after-school programs) in order to make progress toward meeting State standards for physical education for kindergarten through 12th grade students by (1) providing equipment and support to enable students to participate actively in physical education activities; and (2) providing funds for staff and teacher training and education.

So how can you maximize your PEP dollars to assure you are spending money on the PEP grant priorities?  In order to provide equipment, support and training, one needs to have a program of study or curriculum.  The curriculum will drive equipment, training and support.

The Physical Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (PECAT) was specifically designed by CDC to help school districts conduct a clear, complete, and consistent analysis of physical education curricula. PECAT results can help school districts enhance, develop, or select appropriate and effective physical education curricula for delivering high-quality physical education in schools including equipment, training and support.

The PECAT is based on the NASPE national standards for physical education and includes an overview of high-quality physical education, information about physical education curricula, tools to assess a curriculum, and resources for developing a curriculum improvement plan. The PECAT can assist in assessing how closely the written curricula align with national standards for high-quality physical education programs.

Here are the top 10 reasons PECAT takes the mystery out of deciding on quality curriculum for physical education as it relates to the PEP grants. Utilizing the PECAT to determine your needs can strengthen the case for your PEP grant.

  1. Fitness education and assessment: PECAT provides guidance to help make clear decisions about your program and what your needs may be in the area of curriculum and assessment.
  2. Motor Skill and Physical Activity: PECAT helps to provide a methodical review of curricula instruction in a variety of motor skills and physical activities to determine an appropriate and research based curricula program to purchase for PEP funding.
  3. Cognitive Concepts: The PECAT will help determine the development and instruction in, cognitive concepts that support a lifelong healthy lifestyle within a curricula program.
  4. Social Concepts: Opportunities to develop positive social and cooperative skills through physical activity participation is a priority for PEP.  The PECAT can assist in evaluation of curricula for the PEP grant funding.
  5. Nutrition: One priority for PEP funding is instruction in healthy eating habits and good nutrition.  PECAT and HECAT both can assist in documented evidence in this category.
  6. Professional development: PEP encourages the opportunity for growth.  Professional development is a key role and the PECAT can assist in determining the feasibility of a curriculum by including training.
  7. Affordable: Money is scares and should be maximized when received.  PECAT has a section in the beginning to help determine if curricula is affordable and appropriate for your school/district.
  8. Grade Group Specific:  PECAT helps takes the guesswork out of age appropriateness.  Content and skills are specific for each grade group, pre-K-2; 3-5; 6-8; and 9-12.
  9. Assurance: The concepts, sub-skills and skill examples were developed through a rigorous CDC process guided by research evidence and expert opinion.
  10. Change Facilitator: PEP recipients are to identify research based programs that can effect change (improvement).  PECAT identifies strengths and weaknesses for change which improve physical education or after school programs, including the research behind the curricula.

Utilizing the PECAT as a methodical process to establish need for curriculum, training and equipment will strengthen you PEP grant and your PEP grant evaluation.  SPARK has been evaluated with PECAT and is not only a research and outcomes based program by its own merit but the PECAT scores show SPARK is also a quality physical education curriculum. Click Here to see the PECAT scores for each SPARK Physical Education program.

The Top 10 Reasons to Use HECAT: Promoting Healthy Eating

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

With the rise in childhood obesity, there has been an increased focus on nutrition education.  The 2010 Carol M. White PEP Grant requires nutrition education and improvements in nutrition policies.  The importance of connecting nutrition education and physical activity is clear. Without healthy eating and physical activity, healthy balance isn’t possible.  Traditionally, health education assessment has focused on testing knowledge through written exams.  While this has been useful in testing knowledge, we know knowledge doesn’t directly correlate with health behaviors!  Now, with the Centers for Disease Control Health Education Curriculum Assessment Tool (HECAT): Module Healthy Eating, it is no longer necessary to be in a quandary about nutrition education components.  Here are the top 10 reasons HECAT:  Promoting Healthy Eating takes the mystery out of nutrition education.

1.    Assurance: The concepts, sub-skills and skill examples were developed through a rigorous CDC process guided by research evidence and expert opinion.  Healthy Kids Challenge Director, Vickie James, RD, LD was one of the experts!

2.    Parent-Community-Teacher Justification: It provides clear justification to address why a nutrition education curriculum was adopted and what it contains.  A curriculum aligned with HECAT makes teaching easier, as well as effective.

3.    Healthy Behaviors Identified: Thirteen healthy eating behavior outcomes make content needs very tangible.

4.    Clear Learning Targets: Besides knowledge content, it gives standards to indicate what the student should be able to do (the skills needed).  For example, students will be able to describe foods and beverages that should be limited and analyze influences on their choices, set goals and make healthier choices.

5.    Grade Group Specific: It takes the guesswork out of age appropriateness.  Content and skills are specific for each grade group, pre-K-2; 3-5; 6-8; and 9-12.  For example, while pre-K-2 will be able to choose a variety of healthy snacks, the older grade groups will be able to plan and prepare a healthy snack.

6.    Academic Gains: Eating breakfast every day is one of the healthy behavior outcomes.  Studies indicate students who eat breakfast learn better.  One study even connects iron fortified cereals and math scores.  Besides, breakfast eaters have an easier time maintaining healthy weights.

7.    Resource Friendly: Eating more fruits and veggie is a national goal and another of the healthy eating behaviors.  Many recent grants and resources are directed at this behavior outcome.

8.    Self Esteem and Peer Support: There have been reports of bullying not only about overweight but also because of food allergies.  A curriculum meeting HECAT standards incorporates lessons about how to provide support to peers for making healthy choices; and how to refuse foods that cause allergic reactions or that are less nutritious.

9.    Change Facilitator: Change can be hard.  Healthy eating standards are aligned with changes happening in the school cafeteria, vending, classrooms and other places food is offered.  A curriculum meeting HECAT standards helps students have a good understanding of the concepts behind the changes and provides opportunities for positive discussion.

10.  Achieve Effective PEP and Wellness Policy Outcomes: Nutrition education is a critical PEP and Wellness Policy component.  A curriculum meeting HECAT standards, not only fulfills this requirement, but it provides a reliable way to measure the true goal of healthier schools, which is students with healthier eating behaviors!

The good news is that such a curriculum does exist!  Healthy Kids Challenge is excited to announce the release of new nutrition education curricula, Balance My Day!  Make it a New Year’s resolution to check out Balance My Day, available January 1, 2011.  There is curriculum specific for three grade groups, K-2; 3-5; and 6-8.  Balance My Day is aligned with HECAT: Module Healthy Eating standards and is very teacher friendly.  The Healthy Kids Challenge goal is to make teaching and learning simple and fun.