Child care program introduces health education with ready-to-use kits

Local spotlight: IU Health West Day Early Learning explores wellness with stories, songs, dolls

Matt Miller, director of IU Health West Day Early Learning, had a few doubts about teaching his pre-K students about biological organ functions.

What sense would young children make of stories and songs about characters like Hardy Heart and the Kidney Brothers? Would preschoolers really be able to make connections between a stuffed doll and their own health and wellness?

Children at the IU Health West center learn about their bodies with Organ Wise Guys

But Miller was pleasantly surprised by what happened when the class began regularly using the story books, dolls, and music that his center received as part of a grant from Anthem. The tools are part of two curriculum kits from OrganWise Guys, a health and nutrition program with research-proven impact on children’s waist circumferences, BMIs, blood pressure, and test scores.

“We’ve never talked about organ functions with our children before, and this proved a good delivery system for that,” said Miller.

Students were drawn to the dolls because the characters looked human. They have eyes and a mouth like me, students said. 

Inside each doll are ten removable organs featured in the stories and songs. I have a heart, too, observed students.

Miller said the personal connections the students made to the dolls made the lessons resonate more than other healthy eating curriculums they’ve used in the past. The students asked for OrganWise Guys stories and songs. They recognized the organs over time, even if they struggled to describe exactly what each organ does.

A girl explores the organs in the Organ Wise Guy

Expanding this year

The students’ response has inspired Miller and his staff to integrate the OrganWise Guys curriculum more fully in 2017-2018. They struggled to implement all components during the first year because the kits arrived after the start of the academic year, when many goals and curriculum plans were already in place. 

Miller is particularly interested in trying the WISERCISE! 10-minute daily fitness activities and robust “Food of the Month” lessons. His center used these tools in the first year but not to the full extent recommended.

“I’d like to use the OrganWise Guys program again next year and follow the curriculum more faithfully,” said Miller. “I think we will see more significant impact that way.”

Seeing measurable impact

Statistically speaking, the impact is already significant. IU Health West Day Early Learning joined eight other central Indiana early childhood education providers who implemented the OrganWise Guys activities and other tools during the year. An evaluation conducted by Ball State University researcher and professor of nutrition and dietetics Carol Friesen found that these providers adopted, on average, 4.6 new best practices and made statistically significant improvement related to strengthening child nutrition and reducing screen time in their programs.

Get more ideas for your child care program:

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Free resources

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