One of the many exciting (and fast-paced) jobs associated with Healthy Start/Départ Santé is data collection. Run, throw the ball, anthropomorphic measurements, plate waste analysis and environment scans are some of the terms and phrases that you will hear throughout the two days of data collection, when spending time with the Healthy Start team at a childcare centre. During the summer months, the HSDS team has been fortunate to have the assistance of summer students from Quebec as well as a MPH Practicum Student from the University of Saskatchewan.
The project`s main objective is to promote physical activity as well as healthy eating to children aged 3 to 5 years old in childcare centres. Here are some recollections from students, in the field, on what they thought of data collection:
It`s Day 1 and I am approaching the childcare centre with my colleagues. The first thing we hear is children laughing outside. Upon entering, we are introduced to the Director and some Educators of the centre. We quickly prepare our materials to do anthropometric measures; these include a scale, a measuring tape and will be our tools for the next half hour. To finish this task, we need to have a number assigned to each child to ensure they are anonymously identified. With luck, these stickers will stay in place until the end of the day.
Another student stresses the importance of accuracy when recording pertinent information:
Data collection is, for one part, a very serious job; you have to be on point with your numbers, practices and concentration in order to gather very specific data. On the other hand, I found data collection to be very entertaining, stimulating and overall a wonderful experience. Here’s why: I had done research before, with animals and in the anthropology field, but this was a first time with children.
There are numerous components associated with data collection beyond simply collecting anthropomorphic data. An interesting part is the Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD-11).
The second part of data collection is a recorded series of physical activities that test children’s gross motor skills. Some of these activities, like running, might appear as simple tasks for most of us. They tend to be a little bit more demanding for the kids, who were all between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. They each had to do a series of nine gross motor skills, including kicking a soccer ball, throwing and catching balls, jumping on one foot or even galloping “like a horse”.
At this point in the day, the children`s personalities really begin to show as some can be a bit silly by “planting themselves in front of the camera where all you can capture is their performances of grimaces and funny faces.“ At this point the camera person will need to film a second time to ensure the skill is captured on film and can be properly analyzed later on.
Lunchtime can also be a lot of fun at the centres and requires a lot of quick handling, measuring and photographing of meals with the Plate Waste App on the tablets. Research assistants need to take note of which children are participating in the study (with prior parental consent) and keep track of extra servings provided. Even another glass of milk needs to be noted. “Meanwhile, Holly Hallikainen, the Evaluation Coordinator, would weigh the children`s full plates before eating and leftovers afterwards to know exactly how many grams of food the children had eating.“
After lunchtime, it is time for a siesta! It is also a moment for us to catch our collective breaths. The environmental scan questionnaire (NAPSAC) will be taken out of its folder and we will walk around the childcare centre to interview Educators on different aspects of the centre. Once naptime is finished, we will continue to evaluate fundamental movement skills until mid-afternoon.
When reflecting back on data collection:
If this experience has taught me anything, it would be that physical activity and healthy eating are essential to the well-being of children. If we teach them early on how important it is to stay active, sleep well and eat healthy, I think these kids will grow up as functional and healthy adults later on in life. This experience was eye-opening, and I’d do it all over again if asked again!
The HSDS Team would love to have them again!