Identifying Need for Incorporation of Elementary Health Education into the Classroom
Background/Purpose: Delaware elementary schools are required by the Department of Education to teach thirty hours per grade of health education. Since low health literacy is associated with poorer health outcomes, it is important that these standards be met to minimize poor health outcomes for the youngest healthcare consumers. The aim of the study was to identify trends in elementary health education to appropriately create and begin introducing a new health curriculum designed by healthcare providers but taught by elementary education teachers.
Methods: Group interviews were conducted with 24 teachers (kindergarten through fifth grade) as well as school psychologists and gym teachers from schools with varying demographics in terms of racial distribution and percentage of students from low-income households. Interviews were organized by individual or paired grade level and asked a series of questions to identify current health education practices
Results: The teachers resoundingly agreed that minimal health education was occurring and similar topics were identified that would be beneficial to students. Commonly named topics include nutrition and healthy eating on a limited budget, variations in families/members of a household depending on cultural norms or financial necessity, and age-appropriate mental health.
Conclusion: The information gathered from these schools will allow the curriculum to be shaped by a variety of needs and perspectives. Ideally, this will allow us to generalize the curriculum to schools and teachers nationwide. The curriculum will be developed so that it is able to be integrated into the existing curricula and standards, without sacrificing time or other literacy needs. For those teachers with dedicated classroom time for science, the lessons will include hands-on experiments with associated Powerpoints. For the classrooms without this dedicated time, we will create health-based passages for each grade level to be incorporated into their English-Language Arts time. The lessons will be available as a “build-your-own experience” so the teachers can tailor the curriculum to unique needs of the classroom, in addition to broader topics that are important for all. Availability of these health lessons will hopefully lead to increased health literacy, alleviating strain on families and the healthcare system.