The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai gratefully acknowledges the Sesame Workshop for making the Sesame Street characters and content available from its Healthy Habits for Life and Sesame Street in Communities programs for use in educating children and their families in connection with this project.
Our four-month heart health education program is part curriculum and part school intervention. It is designed to engage young children, their families, teachers, and the school. The curriculum comprises four units, each with videos, songs, interactive lessons, and thematic play-based learning activities.
The curriculum also features characters that guide and support the lessons throughout the program. These include Dr. Ruster, a Muppet version of our principal investigator, Dr. Fuster, and Cardio, an energetic cartoon heart who helps children reflect on their choices and habits.
The program is partly based on and adapted from educational initiatives by Sesame Workshop and the Foundation for Science, Health, and Education. We use interactive resources and age-appropriate materials to support and teach young children about Heart Health themes and healthy habits, while providing training and coaching to teachers throughout the intervention.
Our curriculum covers the following themes:
- Body and heart
- Physical activity
- Healthy diet
- Management of emotions
The objectives of the curriculum include:
- Understanding the function of the heart in the body
- Appreciating the importance of daily physical activity
- Observing the relationship between movement and the heartbeat
- Making a connection between physical activity and diet
- Creating a healthy relationship with food
- Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet
- Learning to express, recognize, and handle big emotions
We are assessing the effectiveness of our program on children’s physical activity and food consumption through questionnaires, measurements such as height and weight, and qualitative interviews with trained education specialists. We take health measurements when children are in kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade.
Parents and teachers play a significant role in promoting heart health. Teachers will receive training in the curriculum and on educating children about healthy diet and lifestyle choices, the importance of daily physical activity, and overall health promotion. Parents will complete family activities sent by their child’s teacher designed to encourage them to participate in health activities with their children at home. Parents also receive newsletters about what their child is learning through our program. Every component of the program helps increase the benefits children enjoy. Our program provides a holistic approach to a heart-healthy lifestyle.
In a continuing effort to involve and support the school community, parents and teachers enrolled in the CHILDREN’S Project will complete questionnaires about their level of physical activity, food intake, smoking habits, and quality of life. We will also collect (self-reported) measurements such as height, weight, and blood pressure of teachers and parents.
By consistently involving parents and teachers, we can improve the health of children at higher risk for cardiovascular disease in the long term or those who have a barrier to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This involvement will also help create long-lasting lifestyle changes for young children and their families.
The CHILDREN’S Project is recruiting New York City elementary schools, including public, non-public, parochial, and charter schools, for participation in our study. We wish to recruit a set of schools that reflect the diversity of New York City and its inhabitants.