We Can!® Inspires 'Nifty Nights' in Springfield-Greene County, Missouri Schools

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Posted February 24, 2012

Nifty is just one word that describes the We Can! efforts made by the Springfield-Greene County Park Board in Missouri. Other words that come to mind: successful and dedicated.

As one of 14 Founding Intensive Community Sites, representatives of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board visited the nation's capital in 2005 to learn about We Can!. Since then, the community site has continued to share messages to help children maintain a healthy weight through better lifestyle choices.

Lessons and activities from the We Can! Parent Program inspire a unique offering at each school in the county—a monthly "Nifty Night," which encourages parents and students to engage in physical activity, healthy eating, and reduce the amount of time spent in front of a screen. Though the Springfield-Greene County Park Board is challenged by parent recruitment and retention for the official We Can! Parent Program, the organization uses ideas and findings from the Parent Program to guide its Nifty Nights.

The organization recently hosted a 'Heart Healthy' themed Nifty Night. Children and their parents visited different stations in the gym to learn about physical activities they can do together, and sampled different healthy snacks and meals to show parents different ideas for cost-effective, healthy dishes. The Springfield-Green County Park Board distributed information and handouts from the We Can! website. Community partners from grocery stores and hospitals, to faith-based groups, and university extensions have provided support, supplies, and snacks for Nifty Nights.

With respect to the site's partners, Pratt said, "if they know what your need is, especially if it's in your community, the community wants to help."

Nifty Nights draw an engaged and enthusiastic crowd, generally attracting about 40-50 students and family members per event. The school's teachers and administrators personally reach out to students and families, who would benefit the most from these events, and then these families are invited to attend, but all families and students are always encouraged to participate. To make the night even more interesting and fun, school staff also participates in Nifty Nights.

The community site continues to positively impact many children through implementation of CATCH® Kids Club and Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active® curricula daily in school classrooms, afterschool programs, and at 12 summer day camps.

One memory that stands out in the mind of Pratt is a young boy who tried and enjoyed a cucumber for the first time after the organization implemented snack activities from Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active. The boy relayed his liking of the new vegetable to his mother, who then began buying cucumbers so that her son's new favorite healthy food could be incorporated into the family's diet.

"We're trying to get everyone on the same page about what is healthy," said Sandra Pratt, School-Park Administrator. "If we can teach these children while they are young, they will grow up with healthier habits than their parents. We're trying to make an impact and I hope we are."

The organization originally learned about CATCH Kids Club at the 2005 We Can! launch meeting in Washington, D.C., where Texas-based CATCH Program Director Peter Cribb instructed the community sites. As a Founding Intensive Community Site, the Springfield-Greene County Park Board received curricula training, materials, and technical assistance to support local partnerships and media outreach. In exchange, the site committed to implementing multiple youth programs, parent programs, and community events; administering curriculum evaluations; providing feedback about events, partner, and media outreach; and assessing and sharing program implementation with the National Institutes of Health.

Helping children live healthy lifestyles has truly been a long-term community effort across Springfield-Greene County, Missouri.

Last Updated: February 13, 2013