Written by Myaira Arnold
Good nutrition advice is something that everyone needs in their lives and Grassroots makes sure that they provide that. Brooke Stapleton, an AU women’s lacrosse player, Head Coach, and Curriculum Development Intern does her all to contribute to TGP’s commitment to facilitating Nutrition & Physical Health programs for DC middle schools. She heard about Grassroots in her sophomore year of college and has been working with TGP ever since.
The first step for a middle schooler entering Grassroots as a sixth-grade student is to participate in a Sexual Health program. The same sixth-graders then go to the next step in the “pipeline to get kids involved after the sexual health program”: the Nutrition & Physical Education program in 7th grade. In the Nutrition curriculum, TGP facilitates activities about healthy foods, why eating healthy is so important, and realistic changes and adaptations that we can all make to begin making healthier decisions. The National Health Standards require all middle school youth to receive education about healthy nutrition and physical activity, and this curriculum is a way to tackle these health issues that the PE teachers need help further addressing.
In order to gather resources and information to create the best possible Nutrition & Physical Health program, TGP staff completed a literature review and used community focus groups with teachers, students, and parents in order to get some ideas of what people thought should be taught to students and what information needed to be in the curriculum. Interesting topics or information that came up in the focus groups were researched and put into the curriculum that the student-athletes teach to students in their programs. Lucia Rose is an American University Women’s Cross Country/Track and Field athlete who, along with Brooke, helped pilot the new Nutrition & Physical Health program in 4 schools in the Fall of 2018: two programs in KIPP Will Academy, one at Center City PCS: Brightwood, and one at Washington School for Girls.
This new program was able to follow the same model as the Sexual Health program but it added a new component, team building. This new addition means that students are broken up into teams that they stick with throughout the semester in order to increase student buy-in, their ability to participate in discussion, and engage in small-group discussions with individual student-athlete coaches about the key messages. The curriculum is filled with new and exciting games for coaches to learn and teach students. An example of one activity is the relay race that takes place during the 3rd practice. The race includes hurdles (highlighting the strength that you get from proteins,) speed ladders (highlighting the concentration you get from vitamins and minerals,) and a sprint/bear crawl (highlighting the energy you receive from carbohydrates.) The point of this game is to show how important having a balanced diet is, and that making any one of these challenges harder will impact your ability to be active and healthy. All the while, students are practicing appropriate techniques and reviewing which muscles are activated during each phase of the relay race. Another activity is called Corner Store Scavenge. In this game, students practice making healthy decisions in the stores and restaurants they already go to in their communities while also discussing the influence of friends and family on food decision making.
During the kickstart of TPG’s Nutrition & Physical Education program, 50 student-athletes were trained in January 2019 to implement this program. Brooke and Lucia played a key role in the training of the 50 student-athletes. Since the new program has been in operation, 7 programs were completed during the Spring 2019 semester. Brooke was the head coach of one of these programs at Perry Street Prep PCS, with their 7th-grade class. When asked to compare the new nutrition programs to TGP’s Sexual Health programs, Brooke explained, “sexual health is more new information that kids haven’t received, so when teaching the kids the sexual health it is crucial to make sure they are understanding the material, [where as] a lot of the kids have background knowledge on nutrition, so it’s easier to teach them and have discussions with kids…building on additional knowledge to help them later in life and building on additional knowledge that they already have it helps them grow.“
To finish off the pipeline, TGP is developing a Mental Health Education and Prevention curriculum, which both Brooke and Lucia have been working on along with Swezen Kizito, an AU Men’s Soccer Player, Head Coach, Master Trainer, and Curriculum development intern. The Mental Health curriculum will be created with the help of focus groups and input from parents of the sixth and seventh graders.
In the end, Brooke enjoys working with Grassroots and she says with “my major as Public Health, TGP offered a great opportunity and it helped me with getting to know DC a little more.”