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Campers Engage Hands-on with Nutrition and Fitness

By Eddy Ball
August 2010

Sharon Beard, front and center, welcomed campers.
Beard, front and center, welcomed campers, as current and former NIEHS employees stood in the background. Visible behind Beard, left to right, are Amber Haynes, Undi Hoffler, Ph.D., Elena Braithwaite, Ph.D., and Packenham. (Photo by Laura Hall)

Campers gathered in front of one of the tents
Campers gathered in front of one of the tents donated by Fisher Funeral Parlor in Durham. Jeter led campers in health and fitness rotations for the entire family. (Photo by Laura Hall)

Danielle  Watt, Ph.D.
NIEHS Intramural Research Training Award Fellow Danielle Watt, Ph.D., offered her expertise during an activity about reading and understanding food labels. (Photo by Laura Hall)

Watt, right, holds a measuring cup of grains
As Watt, right, holds a measuring cup of grains, volunteers talk about merits of fresh foods and whole grains, such as quinoa, which campers were able to sample. Standing left to right, are Hoffler, Braithwaite, and Packenham, who led the activity. Haynes, not shown, was also a volunteer for this activity. (Photo by Laura Hall)

Martin-Short, left, and Delta volunteer Lillian Horne
Martin-Short, left, and Horne helped campers learn about heart-healthy cooking for the family. "Campers and parents were allowed to engage hands-on, by preparing simple, low cost, fresh, healthy foods," said Martin-Short. (Photo by Laura Hall)

For its fifth annual Science Summer Day Camp June 19, the Durham Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority( Exit NIEHS 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( Exit NIEHS 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( Exit NIEHS, 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.

Johnson and Wales culinary student Erica Strickland, right
Johnson and Wales culinary student Erica Strickland, right, shared her expertise as campers got hands-on experience making healthy snacks. Strickland is completing an internship in the Duke University Community Service program. (Photo by Veronica Godfrey Robinson)

Seven volunteers: left to right, are Braithwaite,  Hoffler, Watt, Martha Barnes, Packenham, Beard, and Haynes.
Seven of the NIEHS volunteers posed for a group photo at the end of this year's successful camp. Shown, left to right, are Braithwaite, Hoffler, Watt, Martha Barnes, Packenham, Beard, and Haynes. (Photo by Veronica Godfrey Robinson)

NIEHS Volunteers

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

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