New Mexico Dance Institute Shows How to Put Healthy Movement Into Classrooms
National Dance Institute of New Mexico pilot tested, refined and evaluated a dance training curriculum designed to help elementary school teachers increase students' physical activity by incorporating movement into all their classes, not just physical education.
- Approximately 71 Santa Fe public school teachers completed a series of six dance training workshops.
- Approximately 80 teachers from school districts across the state completed intensive workshops at various locations; several trained one on one with instructors in school.
- All the trainees said they had implemented some of the new curriculum in their classrooms, with 81 percent claiming to have used at least half of it.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided $50,014 (partial funding) for this unsolicited project from October 2005 to October 2006.
Students in New Mexico's public schools often do not receive enough physical education due to school budget constraints. They typically get 30 to 80 minutes a week of physical education compared with the national standard of 135 minutes, according to the project director.
A recent study by the University of New Mexico showed that 17 percent of students in elementary school are overweight or obese, and 40 to 50 percent of the middle- and high-school students are as well.
The student population is 60 percent Latino and 22 percent Native American; 72 percent of students live at or below the poverty level.
In 2005, the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, a statewide nonprofit arts organization, developed a curriculum to teach elementary school teachers how to incorporate physical activity into their regular classrooms. The goal was to train teachers statewide, so more students could benefit from increased physical activity throughout the school day.
RWJF is committed to tackling one of today's most pressing threats to the health of children and families-childhood obesity. The goal is to reverse the rise in childhood obesity rates by promoting healthy eating and physical activity in schools and communities throughout the nation.
RWJF places special emphasis on reaching children at greatest risk: African-American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander children living in low-income communities.
During the 20052006 school year, the National Dance Institute of New Mexico pilot tested and evaluated the Train the Trainer dance training curriculum, which was designed to increase physical activity among school children by incorporating movement into academic lessons. The project included several activities:
- Staff held six three-hour training workshops for Santa Fe public school teachers (mostly K4 and gym teachers, physical therapists and bilingual teachers).
- Instructors demonstrated how math teachers might assign students "spots" on the floor, give them a problem and have them move the number of steps corresponding to the answer.
- Or science teachers might ask students to move quickly, slowly or not at all depending on whether they were pretending to be a solid, liquid or gas.
- Instructors offered three intensive workshops for teachers at other locations around New Mexico, and at two conferences focused on health and fitness. The Train the Trainer program is part of a larger staff project called HIP (Health Initiative Plan) to Be Fit, which also includes nutrition education and overall fitness assessments.
- Staff launched a training Web site with teacher comments, a schedule of classes and a link to the train the trainer manual, Hip to be Fit.
- The RMC Research Corporation of Denver evaluated the program under a subcontract, using observation of a workshop, teacher questionnaires and telephone interviews, plus a review of training materials.
The U.S. Department of Education helped support this project with a $29,086 grant.
- Project staff surpassed their original goal of training 60 teachers in Santa Fe, with 71 teachers completing the six training sessions. Participants received professional development credits.
- In addition to training about 80 more teachers around the state, staff also held a workshop for 22 senior members of the New Mexico Department of Health.
- All of the participants said they had implemented some of the curriculum in their classrooms, with 81 percent claiming to use at least half of the information.
- The project director believes the program had a systemic impact by providing teachers with alternative ways of promoting physical activity and health while teaching core subjects. "It encouraged teachers to engage in more health-related activities with their students, from taking walks as a class to eating healthy snacks," the project director said. "The fact that we are catching the kids early is a side benefit."
- Students enjoyed learning new ways to exercise and carried the lessons into recess and the playground. They showed increased energy, improved fitness levels and longer attention spans, as well as enhanced confidence, cooperation and teamwork skills.
The RMC evaluation findings included the following:
- Participants generally gave high ratings to the workshops, but suggested condensing them from six sessions to three or four because of teachers' scheduling constraints.
- Teachers found the training materials, including the Train the Trainer Manual (available online), well designed and effective.
- Encourage collaboration among faculty and staff to promote students' physical fitness. No group can solve the problem alone. "This led us to engage more in collaboration with those who are working directly with health and nutrition. There are a lot of partners who need to come to the table on this issue." (Project Director)
- Be sensitive to teachers' other commitments when scheduling additional training. Teachers' schedules are crowded with after-school conferences and meetings; a six-workshop series was a burden. (Project Director)
AFTER THE GRANT
National Dance Institute of New Mexico continued to offer Train the Trainer workshops in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, but in a series of four workshops as recommended by participants in the first round.
It also continued to work with the New Mexico Public Education Department to create a statewide physical education plan.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Pilot Testing a Dance Training Curriculum to Increase Physical Activity Among School Children
National Dance Institute of New Mexico, Inc. (Santa Fe, NM)
Dates: October 2005 to October 2006
Barbara J. Kastner
(505) 983-7666 ext. 124
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
Kastner B. "Hip Hopping PE." Tumbleweeds, Fall: 1617, 2005.
Billig S, Broderson M and Brown S. National Dance Institute HIP to Be Fit Train the Trainer Evaluation Report. Denver: RMC Research Corporation, 2006.
World Wide Web Sites
www.ndi-nm.org/train_trainer.html. The "Train the Trainer" section of the organization's Web site.
Report prepared by: Paul Jablow
Reviewed by: Pamela Lister
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Jamie B. Bussel