MRU Raising the Bar

Getting to the heart of a rising issue in North America, Cardel Place is teaming up with Mount Royal University to tackle childhood obesity.

Raise the Bar - a collaborative project between Cardel Place and Mount Royal University, along with support from the Flames Foundation for Life, is a generational campaign designed to increase physical activity among children, youth and families in north-central Calgary.

Raising the Bar
MRU partnering with local stakeholders to make a difference in the lives of children in Calgary.

Assistant Professor Dwayne Sheehan, PhD, in the Department of Physical Education and Recreation Studies is excited to be on the front line as Principal Investigator for Raise the Bar, increasing physical literacy in children - a holistic perspective of child and youth development that includes physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development.

"Our review of local research efforts in health promotion targeting obesity and inactivity in children led us to Dr. Dwayne Sheehan at Mount Royal University," says Brad Anderson, marketing and community team leader at Cardel Place.

His combined research and expertise in physical literacy and the use of technology with children is a perfect fit with our passion to do more at a front-line community level to help children and youth develop healthy living skills."

Sheehan will also team up with other Mount Royal faculty members and students from the Faculty of Health and Community Studies throughout phase one of the project.

"We are going to evaluate each child's activity levels on a weekly basis," explains Sheehan.

"We are interested to know how much time they're participating in physical activity over the course of a week and how it compares from weekdays to weekends."

Nadine Van Wyk, lecturer in the Department of Physical Education and Recreation Studies is taking the lead as Research Coordinator. Van Wyk will be leading a group of our Mount Royal undergraduate students who will be collecting, interpreting and analyzing data over the next year.

"The research we are conducting will help Cardel develop purposeful programming," says Van Wyk. "That means that kids will achieve specific outcomes when they are done the programs they participate in."

Think, play, get involved

With many factors contributing to childhood obesity, Raise the Bar's underlying goal is to identify a solution to this growing concern.

This solution, however, doesn't involve forcing children to become active, but in discovering how to increase interest in physical activity.

"It is a combined effort of the parents, community and school system, so this is Cardel place reaching out and trying to make the experience harmonious throughout a child's life," says Sheehan.

"Ultimately they hope to create a "blue print for success" to use in other facilities if we can find a way to change the trend of childhood obesity."

It is also said that children who are physically literate and confident in their abilities are more likely to be active for life.

"The most important underlying piece of this is asking 'how can we develop a positive attitude in children and youth so they want to become active adults?,'" Sheehan says.
With Cardel stepping up to the plate, the project team hopes that parents and the community will jump on board.

"We want to make sure we are looking after our kids' wellness not only in terms of mental and spiritual, but in physical as well," says Van Wyk.

"It is part of childhood development and if we miss out on one they are at a disadvantage.

Physical educators of the future

After 20 years in the public education system Sheehan also knows the importance of educating future physical educators about the need for physical literacy in children.

"In this particular department we educate individuals who will work in the recreation field, so not only are they going to get exposure to a fantastic leading-edge organization like Cardel Place, they will also delve into research and get a taste of that side of academia by participating in this project," says Sheehan.

Undergraduate student Terrence Wong in the Bachelor of Business and Entrepreneurship - Sport and Recreation program is one research assistant who is ready to dive into the project.

"I myself participated in a variety of sports and activities growing up which helped create my solid base of physical literacy," explains Wong.

"Physical education has not been given the respect that it deserves and this study will help the industry as a whole. It is important to remember that Physical Education carries the same importance as all other subjects."

- Angela Sengaus, March 1, 2012