Health Science Curriculum for Early Childhood: Teacher Implementation and Impact on Child Health Knowledge
Mays, Carla J.
This dissertation contains two secondary quantitative data analyses studies. In the first, implementation of the WannaBee Healthy? Be Smart! Be Active! Be a Leader! health science curriculum was examined to expand understanding about teacher usage of an integrated health curriculum. Specifically, researchers assessed the amount of activities within each curriculum domain (i.e., books, creative expressions, language/literacy, math, science) and the number of activities within each theme of the lessons (i.e., nutrition, physical activity, sleep) utilized by participating teachers. Prior to implementation, teachers (N = 68; M age = 35.5 years old) attended a one-hour training where use of the curriculum and supplemental material toolkit were exhibited. Participants were instructed to implement the curriculum over the course of a month and directed to record lessons implemented on a teacher usage checklist, indicating a “Y+” if they taught the lesson and would likely teach it again, a “Y-” if they taught the lesson, but would not likely teach it again, and an “N” if the lesson was not implemented. An overall total number of activities and a total number of activities within each curriculum domain (e.g., language/literacy) and within each theme (e.g., nutrition) was calculated using a frequency analysis. Results show that more than 20% of reporting teachers (n = 10; 21.8%) implemented all or almost all (i.e., 49 or 50 lessons) of the curriculum’s 50 activities. Children had more exposure to the book domain and the theme of nutrition, with less engagement in the domain of math and sleep-themed lessons. Based on the results of the first study, the second study examined the association between the dosage of the WannaBee Healthy? curriculum implementation within each classroom (i.e., frequency use of curriculum domains; frequency use of lesson themes) and child health knowledge outcomes (e.g., USDA MyPlate accuracy). Explicitly, is the dosage and type of content implementation directly associated with student’s gain in knowledge and the ability to successfully identify the following: (1) food from each of the five food groups, (2) healthy plate that includes all recommended food groups, (3) food origins, (4) four activities that increase heart rate, and (5) sleep, healthy plate, and physical activity as behaviors needed to keep our body healthy. Researchers utilized the information from the teacher usage checklist to determine dosage and content implementation of lessons. Pre- and post-assessments were randomly conducted on 252 pre-kindergarten (17.9%) and kindergarten (82.1%) students (M age = 5.02) whose parents had provided consent. Pearson correlations identified strong, positive correlations regarding implementation across the curriculum and within the domains and themes. A series of One-way ANOVAs were conducted, identifying a significance in outcomes of at least one child assessment and in both health themes (i.e., nutrition, physical activity). However, overall findings indicate that curriculum dosage alone was not related to changes in child health knowledge. Further testing did not show a significant difference in association between changes in child knowledge when controlling for time between pre- and post-assessments. Results suggest the effectiveness of the WannaBee Healthy? curriculum is not based on curriculum alone.