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Nurturing Healthy Eating and Active Living

May 17, 2016

There is an aphorism that says “Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the adult.” It’s well known that cognitive and physical development is most rapid during the preschool years. Similarly, eating and activity habits are established during this time of child development as well. These facts are the basis for the Natural Learning Initiative program at North Carolina State University. The NLI has been designing and studying the effects of enhanced outdoor learning environments in early childhood education settings for over ten years.

The Spartanburg Childhood Obesity Taskforce (SCOT) has been investigating Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) projects implemented by the NLI in North and South Carolina. These designs give childcare centers roadmaps to creating outdoor settings that dramatically increase physical activity and spontaneous play in their children and provide opportunities to teach nutrition and earth sciences by gardening and observing nature. The Taskforce has teamed with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to assist 5 childcare centers in the county to build POD based play areas at their sites. The administrators from the five centers, which are spread throughout the county, recently attended a daylong training workshop facilitated by the NLI team from NC State and the department chair and graduate students from Landscape Architecture department at Clemson University. Each center participated with NLI faculty to create their plans and each will receive a professional custom design in about a month.

The five centers chosen from a pool of applicants are Big Blue Marble Academy in Boiling Springs, Kid's First Child Development Center in Chesnee, Miss Tammy's Little Learning Center in Landrum, Spartanburg Regional Ida Thompson Child Development Program in Spartanburg, and Unique Kids in Greer. Each center will finance part of their projects and will seek funding and volunteer help from their communities.

Over the next two years, the SCOT will support the centers with technical assistance and resource development. As noted by the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard:

Providing young children with a healthy environment in which to learn and grow is not only good for their development—economists have also shown that high-quality early childhood programs bring impressive returns on investment to the public. Three of the most rigorous long-term studies found a range of returns between $4 and $9 for every dollar invested in early learning programs…

We are thrilled to have this opportunity to invest in the future of our children, and invite the community to participate as well. Send inquiries to Liz Perry at Partners for Active Living at lperry@active-living.org.

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