Targeting Obesity in a NYC Public School: My Practicum Experience

Christine Raper, MPH ’13 in Sociomedical Sciences

Christine RaperWith a background in psychology, education, leadership, and now public health, I have always had a passion for teaching others. I previously worked with students in all grades of the K-12 sector and at colleges and universities, so I have always been interested in how people learn information and apply the knowledge they have attained. At the beginning of my second semester at Mailman, I was able to find a practicum experience that perfectly matched my personal and professional interests.

In January 2012, I began a one-year practicum at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School, a combined elementary and middle school located in the Hudson Heights section of Washington Heights. Working as an intern for the Parent Teacher Association’s Wellness Committee, I was able to work closely with the parents of elementary and middle school students to make changes that were both feasible and sustainable.

A major part of my work at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School was to revise the nutrition curriculum for elementary school students. Using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new MyPlate recommendations as a guide, I created a nutrition curriculum and implemented it with the first graders, teaching three weeks of nutrition lessons to eager seven-year-olds. Working with the PTA’s Wellness Committee, we also started the Budding Chefs program, which teaches elementary school students basic cooking skills to spark their interest in health and wellness. We also held a third annual KidFit event, an obesity awareness and prevention health fair open to the Washington Heights community.

The nutrition lessons that Christine created and taught at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School

The nutrition lessons that Christine created and taught at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School

After working with P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School for some time, I began to recognize the need for more programs that related to the middle school students. I decided that I would use my ideas as a proposal for my Master’s Thesis. As a Health Promotion track student (same as the Health Promotion Research and Practice certificate program), I chose to write my thesis as an intervention proposal, focusing on the preadolescents in Hudson Heights. My master’s thesis, titled Life’s a PEACH (Parents, Educators and preAdolescents for Children’s Health) is a theory-guided and evidence-based tri-level intervention to decrease preadolescent obesity in Hudson Heights. Working with preadolescents, their parents, and school administration, the intervention program focuses on nutritional and physical activity changes that can be made at home, in school, and in the community.

As graduation is closing in, with less than two months until the big day, I have taken time to reflect on my experiences over the last two years at Mailman. My practicum opportunity at P.S./I.S. 187 Hudson Cliffs School is one of the bright memories I will take with me after I leave this great city. To all the first year students: Choose how you spend your time wisely, and take in as many experiences as possible, because two years go by more quickly than you think.

This post was adapted from the Students for Food Policy and Obesity Prevention (FPOP) blog

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