Assessment of Health Knowledge after "A Healthy Adventure"

Article excerpt

TWO million students each year visit one or more of the 30 health education centers (HEC) affiliated with the National Association of Health Education Centers (NAHEC). According to NAHEC, "health education centers are committed to helping young people gain an understanding of how the human body works and, in so doing, creating a sense of self-worth and personal responsibility."[1] Given this commitment, HECs are in a position to help meet the elementary child's developmental task of "building wholesome attitudes toward oneself as a growing organism."[2]

Most health education centers have individual classrooms and/or theaters and use state-of-the-art technology to deliver health education.[1,3] HECs incorporate hi-tech audiovisual presentations, life-sized exhibits, and special programs that cannot be provided in a typical school.[1,4] Today's independent HEC facilities evolved from health education displays in museums.[3] Since the 1958 opening of the Hinsdale Health Museum (now the Robert Crown Center), HECs have added guided instruction to enhance educational effectiveness.[5] Many HECs developed curriculum materials to help classroom teachers make sure students get the most from the HEC visit.

The Hult Health Education Center (Hult HEC), located in Peoria, Ill., is a not-for-profit organization established in 1988. The center houses five learning theaters that use state-of-the-art visual displays, models, and interactive exhibits. Four curricular areas are covered at the Hult HEC: general health, nutrition, substance abuse prevention, and family life education. The general health program for grades 2 and 3 is known as "A Healthy Adventure."[4]

From "A Healthy Adventure" students receive an overview of cells, organs, and body systems; learn to identify organs in the digestive system; and learn how to place a variety of foods into the basic food groups. Teaching methods include animated displays, audiovisual presentations, group interaction, Systems Man, and Transparent Anatomical Manikin.[6]

The NAHEC and directors of individual HECs acknowledge the need for program evaluation. Most formal evaluation taking place is evaluation of individual programs. Yet, little has been reported in the professional literature.[5,7] This study evaluated Hult HEC's "A Healthy Adventure" program.

METHODS

Subjects

Subjects included third graders from four different elementary schools in the district surrounding Hult HEC. Ten third-grade classrooms participated in the study, and data were collected from 168 students during spring 1999 semester. Of 168 participants, 92 (54.8%) were boys and 76 (45.2%) were girls. Most students were Caucasian (83.9%, n = 141).

Study Design

The study was quasi-experimental and used a nonequivalent pretest-posttest control group design with four groups. Group was the independent variable and the dependent variable was posttest score. Pretest scores were used as a covariate.

Procedures

After receiving Institutional Review Board approval, the researchers contacted administrators and teachers at the four schools and obtained permission to conduct the study. A group of third graders from each school completed a pretest and posttest. Group One included 54 students and served as the control group. Group Two students (n = 38) received traditional health education throughout the school year from their classroom teacher. Group Three (n = 47) had no traditional health education at school, but visited Hult HEC for "A Healthy Adventure." Group Four (n = 29) visited Hult HEC and also used the supplemental materials provided by the HEC. Pretests and posttests were administered during regularly scheduled class time by research assistants. Figure 1 contains a summary of the evaluation design and Figure 2 outlines the timeline for data collection.

Figure 1
Evaluation Design

                                  Traditional
                                    Health      Center
Group           n       Pretest    Education    Visit

Group One       54         *
Group Two       38         *           *
Group Three     47         *                      *
Group Four      29         *                      *

              Educational
               Materials
Group         from Center   Posttest

Group One                      *
Group Two                      *
Group Three                    *
Group Four         *           *
Figure 2
Data Collection and Treatment Timeline

Day     Group 1    Group 2               Group 3     Group 4
One     pretest    pretest    pretest                pretest
                                         center
Two                                      materials

                                         center
Three                                    materials

                              center     center
Four                          visit      visit

                                         center
Five                                     materials

                                         center
Six                                      materials

Seven   posttest   posttest   posttest   posttest

[Figure 3 ILUSTRATION OMITTED]

"A Healthy Adventure" supplemental materials consisted of four lessons to be presented by the classroom instructor. …