CyberFair Project ID: 4271

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International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: Expanding Obesity Shrinking Lifespan
Category: 1. Local Leaders

School: Martel Elementary School
    Lewiston, Maine, USA

23 students, ages 8-9 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 16, 2006. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006

Classes and Teachers: Mrs. Darlene Letourneau

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Community

Lewiston is an urban community in the heart of central Maine. It is the second largest city with a population of approximately 36,830. Lewiston is the second largest city in Maine. It is located in central Maine on the banks of the Androscoggin River. The city covers an area of 35 square miles.

Lewiston residents enjoy four seasons. The average January temperature is 19 °F and the average July temperature is 79 °F The first frost is expected around mid-October and the last frost is usually in mid-May. This makes for a long winter.

In the early 1900's the city was a booming textile community. Over the last century Lewiston has undergone many changes, growing from a small community into a bustling industrial community. With the decline of the textile industry, beginning in the 1960's, Lewiston suffered a decline of prosperity. Today, Lewiston is once again growing. New businesses are renovating the large mills that were built during the peak of the industrial revolution, helping Lewiston regain a strong economy while maintaining its historical landmarks.

Lewiston is undergoing urban renewal and trying to regain a position of leadership and economic growing in the State of Maine. Lewiston is focusing on expanding its leadership role by inviting new businesses to locate in the central business district. L.L.Bean has a telephone catalog center that employs over 1200 customer representatives during the peek season. Andover College has opened a campus in downtown Lewiston. The textile mills that once made Lewiston a booming community are being renovated into new business, training facilities, banking data operations, college facilities, new business, as well a variety of restaurants. Our community is growing in economic and educational opportunities. Our population is becoming more diverse with a large number of Somalians selecting to relocate on the in our community.

2. Summary of Our Project

'As Maine Goes So Goes the Nation' was once a popular political slogan during elections. The third graders of Martel School would like to be leaders in encouraging students to lead more active lives by example. Our project will focus on preparing for the future. Students will: focus on ways they can improve their health, present information to the local school board to reinstate morning snack recess and extend physical education class by 15minutes, and publish a novel that will teach children of the world about the health dangers obesity.

Childhood obesity has become a recognized problem throughout the nation and industrialized nations of the world. The student’s goal is to help children take an active role in their health. Students will create a website to teach children how to make better choice in food, play, and exercise.

The Lewiston School Board banned the sale of cake, soda, and 'junk food' in local schools. At first students saw this new policy as a disaster. The food sale, vending machines, and candy sales had become the main method for supplying sport equipment, field trips, and after school clubs projects.

Martel third graders also felt this way until they began to research childhood obesity. Funding field trips now did not seem as important as their health. These eight and nine year olds decided to make lifestyle changes. They ate healthier snacks, walked the long way to the restroom at breaks, demonstrated simple changes that all students could make to improve their health. To quote from the CyberFair home page these third graders decided the best way to “… prepare for the future - by thinking about the possible future, the probable future, the preferable future and the preventable future.”

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:21-50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:more than 6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

E. Additional comments concerning your computer and/or Internet access (Optional):

Currently, our school computers range from PC's operating on Win98/NT and 2000. We currently have one i-book cart with 26 i-books. Martel has no computer lab and limited networked software which consists of Apple Works, Front Page Express, Kidspiration2 and The Ultimate Writing and Creativity Center. Shortly after Christmas break our school received a SmartBoard. This interactive board made revisions and collaborative work more engaging. All students focused and enjoyed doing revisions with only the touch of their fingertips. Thank you Dorrell Spence our technology hero who came in promptly to install software and to demonstrate how to use this SmartBoard. Thank you for Impatica for PowerPoint and ImageBlender students prepared their PowerPoint presentation to the Lewiston School Board. We are sure to impress them with our project with the use of these software products that make up look like experts.

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

During the winter months students do not go outside for snack recess. The time it took to dress and undress in winter clothing was deemed a waist of time. Students decided during indoor breaks have healthy snacks and to take the long way to the rest rooms. They quietly walked pass the rest rooms, up to the third floor, down pass the main office, and down to the rest room for a total of 1000 steps a day. Students were amazed that during the first week many of their classmates were out of breath as they had climbed the last flight of stairs. Students huffed, puffed, and stumbled during that first month. Today every student can easily do the “daily walks”. Staff members praise the students for their example of simple lifestyle change. However, our greatest barrier was not the stairs nor tempting treats it was surprisingly the physical education teacher. Our physical education teacher e-mail a complaint to the Assistant Superintend against a petition the students had written requesting reinstating outside recess, participating in the Presidential Fitness Award, and having a full time physical education teacher at every school. The superintendent has invited our class to present their project to the School Board in March. Our website is now becoming a civic project as well. Martel students have taken a leading role in changing their lifestyle, built-up their physical strength and endurance, but most importantly have taken the initiative to change their future. They have inspired others to follow in their footstep. The reaction to their petition has fueled many with a desire to make policy changes that will positively affect all school students. Teaching students about health dangers of obesity, empowering others to make lifestyle changes well lead them to a longer, healthier, and happier life.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

· Student: “I eat an apple a day and I’ve lost 3 pounds this month!” · Occupational therapist: “I am amazed at the improved coordination of some student’s. He/ she can not walk down the stairs alternating right and left feet.” · Parent: “This has been a great learning project for our entire family.” · Student: “I’ve learned that being obese isn’t being fat.” · Student: “I want to lose weight so that I can muscle up my body” · Parent: “My son and I now plan a health meal together. We look at the cookbook, go buy the missing ingredient, and each the correct portion size. It’s been a look of fun getting healthier together.” · Student: “I learned the correct portion size of what to eat. A fist full of fruits, meat, vegetables.” · Student: “Eat a variety of foods from all food groups at each meal” · Student: “ When I eat a balanced meal, I am not as hungry between meals” · Student: “I really like having a homework that said I had to go outside and play after school on nice days.” · Student: “ I breathe better when I climb stairs” · Parent: “I learned as much as my child.” · Student: “After our walks I can participate better in our next lesson.” · Student: “My BMI (Body Mass Index) shows that this year I have lost 5 pounds of fat. Dad says I’m bulking up with muscles.”

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

The State of Maine's Learning Results require that all-third grade students develop historical knowledge of their local community (Lewiston). The CyberFair project provided an interesting and motivating way to cover the existing curriculum requirements in Social Studies, English Language Arts, Visual and Performing Arts, as well as Science and Technology. The project extended well beyond the required curriculum standards. It included developing communication skills, organizing photos with text: editing: writing: designing: and publishing skills: computer skills: keyboarding: scanning: creating animated graphics: cutting and pasting. These skills were necessary for students to create their web page. In fact it would be very lengthy to list all the specific content areas, standards, and performance indicators listed in the State of Maine Learning Results. In addition to all these state standards, Lewiston also has local assessment tests that must meet quarterly. The third and fourth quarter Social Studies targets are Decision-Decision and Civic Education and learning about the branches of local, state, and federal government. The third and fourth quarter Science and Health target focus on Nutrition. The most exciting aspect of this project was that students practiced and mastered so many skills while enjoying themselves. The idea of restating in their own words was very difficult for these eight-and-nine year old students. For eight-and-nine year old students copying verbatim was writing their own work. Learning about plagiarism and giving correct references was a new concept. This was a wonderful learning experience disguised as pure pleasure. However these students lived what the concepts they learned by making lifestyle changes. They turned off the video games and opted to for outdoor play. Many selected healthier eating snacks and by eating smaller portions. They learned to say no to seconds or thirds in some cases. These eight-and-nine year olds learned by teach others through examples.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

Students began by reading an article written in The Lewiston Sunjournal about a new policy being implemented by the Lewiston School Board. This brought about discussions regarding fundraising, who makes policies, why are they made, how can policy changes be made, and to the main question “Is obesity really a problem?”

Televisions broadcast sponsored daily discussions about the dangers of childhood obesity reaffirm students that they needed to “DO something”.

Our social studies textbook Communities (Harcourt Brace) provided a glossary of key words. The story City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan inspired the students to research childhood obesity and to write a petition proposing a change to the School Board Policy. They asked Mr. Whitfield, the principal permission to ask students and staff to sign their petition during lunch. Signatures were counted and graphed.

Students also took a school survey to prioritize the proposal ideas from the petition. Democracy at its best! They used Appleworks on the i-books to graph the petition and survey results.

Students combined their internet research notes to write a group report about childhood obesity. The internet, magazine, newspaper articles, guess speakers, digital cameras, and scanners, and photos were edited on ImageBlender2.

Meanwhile student web-designers were busy constructing our web-site using ClarisHome Page and the downloaded WebBlender software.

Other student created a PowerPoint presentation to school Healthy Habits and enhanced it with the downloaded Impatica for PowerPoint.

The Ultimate Writing and Creativity Center software was used by students to type reports into the classroom computers. Students without computers at home brought a QuickPad to type reports at home. The next morning reports were beamed them into the school computer. A variety of technology was used as well as a good blend of the new hi-tech and the traditional paper and pencil low-tech to achieve the final product.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

Student’s “Wowed” visitors with their knowledge of nutrition, moderation, diseases associated with childhood obesity. Students learned to communicate, to ask informational questions, presented information in a very “adult” manner. Students impressed local pediatricians and nurse practitioners. Eight-and-nine year olds discussed their BMI (Body Mass Index) and muscling-up to build-up their endurance. A local nurse practitioner ordered health and nutritional booklets for all third grade students.

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

Will your project make a difference? It already has!

Staff members have praised them with their efforts to reinstate outdoor snack recess, extended gym class, and aggressively pursuing implementing the Presidential Fitness Award within the school system. The students have implemented lifestyle changes at home and at school. Parents have retold stories of going to the local supermarkets and their child selecting a snack according to its nutritional value rather than commercial temptations.

Cafeteria director has praised students for selecting a variety of vegetables to the school lunch tray. Students often select fresh fruit and water for morning snack versus sweets. Many have toned up leg muscles from our daily walk up and down stairs.

Most commendable is the students internalizing the lessons. Mothers have retold stories of meals at home when students have suggested smaller portions be placed on their plates. These students have learned to just “Say No to Super Size” portions. They are ambassadors by example at school, at home, within the local community, and hopeful at a global level.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

The project was truly a cooperative venture between school-family-community. The list of the people who volunteered to help students is very long. The excitement was contagious and people came forward volunteering their knowledge and resources. Thank you's to all: · Parents who arranged and shuffled students to interviews · Local Physicians, CNA’s, nurse practitioners, as well as fitness managers who agreed to be interviewed, generously provided students and the class with resource materials, and brochures. · Mrs. Ellis, our classroom aide, who made who kept track of who needed to pass in bibliography, permissions slips, and typed in reports for students. · LRTC Law Enforcement Cadets for helping students create meaningful questions. · KIDS Consortium and Mrs. Terri Marin, Administrative Director for the encouraging words of support. · Mrs. Nina Baril, our school nurse, for teaching a unit on nutrition bringing in interesting articles. · Mrs. Pamela Libby, for teaching the emotional and psychological benefits of good health. · Ms. Lindsay Tice the local journalist who email up a copy of the newspaper article she wrote in October when Mrs. Letourneau misplaced the newspaper clipping. · Ms. Meg Reynolds our Bates College student intern who helped students understand some of those very difficult internet articles. · A very special thank you to Mr. Dorrell Spence, Technology Specialist, who came in without delay to download and debug software. Mr. Joseph Julias, TechnologyAdministrator, who came to the rescue when everyone else had gone home. Ms Jan Brackett, Technology Specialist, who created the HTML slide show template. · Mrs. Joanne Baribault, author of Fishing With Balloons, who worked with our class to write a collaborative story on childhood obesity, O Is For Obesity.

· Mr. Steven Whitfield who supported our projects when we encountered opposition from the physical education teachers.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

Childhood obesity is more than a frequently heard term to these eight and nine year olds. It is becoming a lifestyle change. Students will be presenting this information to the local School Board and hope to make changes in the current no-recess policy during the winter months. They are taking an active role in their school community, making changes in their lifestyle by being more active, and the are controlling their future by be active participants in advocating for policy changes.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 4271)

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