Environmental Factor, August 2010, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Campers Engage Hands-on with Nutrition and Fitness
By Eddy Ball
For its fifth annual Science Summer Day Camp June 19, the Durham Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority(http://www.dst-durhamalumnae.org/index.html) Science and Everyday Experiences (SEE) program took aim at the growing problem of overweight, obesity, and related health issues. As they have in years past, NIEHS staff generously volunteered their time and expertise to help make the summer camp a success.
Developing this year's theme "Blast Into Scientific Exploration for the 21st Century: Healthy Lifestyles," the camp offered 19 children in the fourth to eighth grades a fun-filled, hands-on immersion into healthy eating and fitness, completely free of charge, during the half-day program held at the Durham Alumnae Delta House.
According to Durham SEE(http://www.dst-durhamalumnae.org/seehome.htm) chair Sharon Beard and co-chair Joan Packenham, Ph.D., who are colleagues at NIEHS, the healthy lifestyles program embraces First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move: America's Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids(http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/first-lady-michelle-obama-launches-lets-move-americas-move-raise-a-healthier-genera) , launched earlier this year. "We wanted to help parents and campers understand why it's important for diet to be a major concern in the household to have everyone eating healthier," Beard explained.
This year's camp attracted a record 35 NIEHS, Delta, parent, and community volunteers who organized and conducted the program. A returning component in the program was the SEE Parental Involvement Workshop, supported by former NIEHS scientist Marian Johnson-Thompson, Ph.D. The goal was to introduce parents and caregivers to the world of interactive hands-on science, an important part of the camp's emphasis on family involvement in learning and health, with an opening presentation by Leatrice Martin-Short, director of the Duke Heart Center Community Outreach and Engagement Program. Organizers designed many of the activities, Beard explained, so they could be done as a family unit as campers' families integrated what they learned into their everyday lives.
Conspicuously absent from this year's camp were the standard fare of pizza, soft drinks, and packaged snacks, both for volunteers and participants, as campers enjoyed a healthy breakfast, lunch, and snacks in the course of activities on science, nutrition, health, and fitness. Following a welcome from Deloris Hargrow, president of the Durham Alumnae Chapter, a camp overview by Beard, and a health and fitness warm up led by NIEHS volunteer Shawn Jeter, campers went to the first of three hands-on science, nutrition, and health activities.
Led by Packenham, module one, "Understanding Your Body - Health and Nutrition Needs," explored the U.S. Department of Agriculture's revised food pyramid and health guidelines for human body's fuel needs and taught campers how to use body mass index and waist circumference as health guidelines. The module brought home the message that poor nutrition has direct effects on health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Topics Packenham and colleagues covered during this module included "Assessing Your Risk for Disease," "How Much Do I Need to Eat," "Fats, Sugar and Salt," and making healthy choices when eating at fast food restaurants.
Module two, "Nutrition Made Simple - Healthy in the Kitchen," was led by Martin-Short with assistance from Delta volunteer Lillian Horne, M.D., a physician in private practice, and Erica Strickland, a student at Johnson and Wales University College of Culinary Arts. The activity leaders showed campers and parents how to make such heart-healthy snacks as smoothies, fruit kabobs, hummus, homemade salsa, and Greek salad.
In module three, Jeter led campers in health and fitness rotations for the entire family, such as Zumba, line dancing, Wii, toning and stretching, and hula hoops.
SEE is a national initiative of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority to encourage African-American children to gain competency and interest in science, mathematics, and technology, by involving them in hands-on science activities that are fun and thought provoking. These activities demonstrate to the children that people use science and math in their every day lives.
When it comes to science education outreach and community service, NIEHS employees are generous group. As they have in the past, this year several of the Institute's current and past employees answered the Delta call for summer camp volunteers:
Beth Anderson, program analyst with the Superfund Research Program
Martha Barnes, program analyst with the Program Analysis Branch
Sharon Beard, Worker Education and Training Program (WETP) industrial hygienist
Elena Braithwaite, Ph.D., staff scientist in the Comparative Genomics Group
Amber Haynes, predoctoral fellow in the Clinical Research Unit
Undi Hoffler, Ph.D., former postdoctoral fellow with the National Toxicology Program (NTP)
Shawn Jeter, technical information specialist with the NTP
Joan Packenham, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS Office of Human Research Compliance
Jim Remington, program analyst with the WETP
Veronica Godfrey Robinson, biologist with the NTP
Marian Johnson-Thompson, Ph.D., former director of Education and Biomedical Research Development
Danielle Watt, a postdoctoral fellow in the DNA Replication Fidelity Group