The Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service recently kicked off the third year of OrganWise Guys, a highly interactive nutrition education program for elementary school kids, and announced the initiative has expanded by about 20 schools across the state for the 2011-12 school year.
The Oct. 19 kickoff and orientation at OSU-OKC drew a mix of teachers, 4-H educators and family and consumer sciences educators, including several who were getting their first taste of the educational program.
“The generous funding and support from the BlueCross BlueShield of Oklahoma and its Healthy Kids, Healthy Families initiativeallows us to impact children and families throughout Oklahoma in a meaningful way by providing a comprehensive program that encourages kids to make good choices that will help them lead healthier lives,” said Debra Fostr, OSE Extension assistant specialist.
The double-digit increase in OrganWise Guys participation this academic year brings the total number of schools involved in the initiative to nearly 50. The expansion translates into an additional 250 classes and approximately 6,500 students who will benefit from the initiative’s research-based curriculum.
OrganWise Guys is designed to teach healthy eating and physical activity habits to pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students. The program uses a cast of characters based on organs from the body such as Hardy Heart and Sir Rebrum, the brain, to encourage children to eat low fat, high fiber foods, drink water and exercise.
OrganWise Guys lessons vary by grade level, and teachers are encouraged to fit a minimum of six hours of the programming into their classroom plans, although how they accomplish that goal is at their discretion. Yearly evaluations submitted by educators reflect that they most frequently used Wisercise, short lessons in math, language arts and other subjects that also combine physical activity, as well as OrganWise Guys books, activity sheets, dolls and DVDs.
Interestingly, the program is designed to involve the entire school, and as far as FCS Extension educator LaDell Emmons is concerned, the systemic approach is one of the reasons the program resonates so well.
Evidence suggests OrganWise Guys does an effective job of teaching key nutritional messages.
Hard data backs up what teachers and school administrators are experiencing anecdotally on a daily basis. Results from the OrganWise Guys/Healthier Options for Public Schoolchildren Study indicate that nutrition and healthy lifestyle education, along with role modeling by foodservice staffs, yields statistically significant improvements in body mass index, blood pressure and academic achievement measures.
In 2010-11, Extension served 7,114 youth in approximately 268 classrooms in 30 Oklahoma school districts through OrganWise Guys. The partnership between Extension, BCBSOK and OrganWise Guys is expected to extend through the 2013-14 school year.
Schools interested in applying for participation in the program next year should contact the local county Extension educator for details. In Pushmataha county, the contact is Beth Pike, FCS Educator; (580)-298-5563.