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According to Hall, D and Elliman, D (2006), the influence of social, economic and environmental factors contribute greatly to the poor health of children in our modern day society and the health and wellbeing of a child is primarily the responsibility of the parents or carers. However it is beneficial to society to ensure children's rights and needs are recognised and valued and much better health is possible with a shared community-wide initiative.
The Scottish Government has taken responsibility and made it a priority to improve health in Scotland with a particular focus on diet and physical activity. Their strategy "Improving Health in Scotland - the Challenge" recognises early years is an area for improvement and recommends the Scottish populace needs nutritional guidance in meeting the Scottish Government's aim to improve children's health. In addition, they feel changing behaviour towards bad eating habits can support and develop future healthy growth and development.
The objective of my role as a health educator working within government guidelines was to visibly advocate health and wellbeing in the nursery. My aim was to facilitate promotion of health and wellbeing and contribute to informing, improving and encouraging the health of children, parents and staff and to raise awareness of adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Before deciding on which area to develop and implement, I researched the nursery's health approach and initiatives and discovered they work within The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 and "place health promotion at the heart of their schools' activities."
My research found that all food and drink provided within the nursery had to fulfil nutritional requirements and this provided me with knowledge of the strategies already in place and enabled me to plan, adapt and utilise them for the nursery setting.
I visited the nursery prior to starting and discussed the project with the nursery teacher. We spoke about how the nursery planning had a focus on health and wellbeing and the nursery would be introducing new foods to the children the week after my completion date. I suggested I could carry out activities relating to nutrition as this would work towards their planning of new foods.
This visit allowed me to consider the options available and gave me the foundation on which to plan strategies that would work alongside the current nursery planning and gave me a shared focus that supported the learning intention with the nursery.
Planning and Strategies
In planning the project, I researched and used the key principles for health promotion made by World Health Organisation, as stated by Naidoo. J and Wills J, (page 75). This included involving the whole nursery and not just particular groups of vulnerable children and I used activities that meant something to them in their everyday life within and beyond the nursery. In addition, by connecting with the whole nursery/school community, including parents and staff, I was more likely to prolong the awareness of health and well being.
My educational approach enabled me to create activities that interested and influenced the children about their health and wellbeing. It was directed towards action by getting the children to take part and by using a variety of methods, approaches and learning experiences I was able to build on and increase knowledge diet and nutrition.
Being able to use different methods, approaches and learning experiences allowed me the security that if one method was unsuccessful then another approach may provide more positive results.
My strategies for promoting the health and wellbeing project consisted of ten learning experiences, an interest table and a wall display.
The planned activities were a combination of fruit themed experiences implemented across four areas of the Curriculum for Excellence. The activities enabled me to promote diet and nutrition and by observing them I could take their learning forward. My activities gave the children a variety of learning experiences to participate in and overall I feel my activities produced a mixture of results.
I feel the activities of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, fruit textures, fruit tasting, hand painting fruits and the fruity smelling gloop were very successful. (observations 1,3, 4, 6 and 7). These activities created lots of interest, gave me the opportunity to interact and speak with the children about diet and nutrition and enabled me to recall knowledge shared on previous activities.
Another activity that was successful was the role play opportunity of a fruit and vegetable shop. (Observation 5) This activity created too much excitement for the children and forced me to self-evaluate the experience and I have highlighted this on the observation sheet. By self-evaluation of the resources used, I was able to deliver an excellent learning experience for the children and this is highlighted in my mentor's report. Appendix 5
My observation found that this activity was excellent for the children's fruit recognition and use of appropriate language that supported health and wellbeing and because of this I feel this activity produced a result of raising awareness of diet and nutrition.
One example of an unsuccessful activity was making the fruit smoothie which was the last activity planned and was the most disappointing. The children did not participate in this activity, deciding to do others things instead and I feel I may not have promoted the activity enough and encouraged interest. However the children did show an interest in the fruit smoothie during snack time. (Observation 10)
The activity that produced the best result in raising awareness was the fruit salad. I was delighted when a child came running to me the day after an activity and asked if she was too late to help make the fruit salad. Feedback from my mentor was that the child had told her parents how excited she was about me reading the story "Oliver's Fruit Salad" and how I asked the children if we would make a fruit salad too. This showed me I had raised awareness to this child who in turn did the same with her parents. (Observation 9)
The interest table was used to display the resources I was using in my activities and consisted of books, DVDs, hand puppets and some examples of unfamiliar fruits. My intention was to encourage interest from the children and persuade them to use and explore the resources whenever they wanted.
This approach proved to be successful because they did use the resources in their independent play. One example was when a child asked me if she could watch The Very Hungry Caterpillar DVD and as soon as I started the film, I realised that other children came to join in. This experience continued to develop their health and wellbeing learning and allowed them to take part in my project with limited adult interaction.
The purpose of the wall display was to promote health and wellbeing through sharing and celebrating the children's learning. Our display carried pictures and photographs of the children's work and also included printed text relating to some of the learned outcomes and experiences from Curriculum for Excellence.
This method also proved to be successful because by "making learning visible", which was inspired by Reggio Emilia, Northern Italy, I was able to continue to raise awareness of health and wellbeing to everyone using the setting. The children confidently and excitedly shared their learning and experiences with other children, parents and staff with a sense of pride and confidence.