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Friday Field Notes


Last week we introduced a new pilot program, Building Healthy Military Communities (BHMC), which will be launching within the coming months. What is interesting about BHMC is that it is not a self-contained program, but is meant to support the extension of other programs and resources to military service professionals, communities and families. In the coming weeks this blog will cover more information about BHMC, in the meantime we thought it would be appropriate to highlight a program that has been in operation for several years in military communities, Up for the Challenge: Lifetime Fitness, Healthy Decisions. The reason we’re featuring this program is because it is a great example of what can be accomplished when land-grant universities collaborate with military communities, and with Maryland being the first state to pilot BHMC, we can expect program such as this to be further promoted in the future.

The Up For the Challenge curriculum developed through University of Maryland Extension between 2006 and 2012 as a support piece for the Army Child, Youth and School Services Program. The program is supported by the 4-H/Army Youth Development Project, a partnership of the U.S. Army Child, Youth and School Services, 4-H National Headquarters, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Extension.

The objective of Up for the Challenge is to provide sports directors and youth development workers with tools to create an educational experience that allows them to:

  • Assess youth’s personal goals
  • Plan physical activities for youth, especially those not athletically inclined
  • Eliminate practices that may humiliate youth
  • Incorporate other related curriculum into programming
  • Provide a variety of healthy choices: lifestyle, eating, and physical activity
  • Provide developmentally appropriate nutrition concepts
  • Model positive, simple, consistent nutrition and physical activities messages
  • Focus on knowledge and skills to make healthy personal decisions
  • Teach self-management skills for monitoring goals
  • Teach cooperation, fair play, responsible participation and the joy of being active
  • Promote and encourage healthy lifestyles through activities

carrot-kale-walnuts-tomatoesUp for the Challenge includes fitness, nutrition and health lessons for three age groups K-5th grade, 6th – 8th grade, 9th -12th grade. The curriculum provides learning that is specific to a child’s individual needs and allows each participant to set their own healthy living goals. The program also utilizes the 4-H Experiential Learning Model in which youth are provided with questions, problems, situations or activities that will allow them to draw conclusions based on their own experience.  The curriculum includes 32 lessons in total, divided into five chapters: Back to Basics, Healthy Decisions for Living Well, Fueling the Body, Consumer Challenge, and Activity for Life. Educators using the curriculum can adapt curriculum to their own needs – and have a variety of lessons to choose from to meet their learning goals. Many of the lessons include fitness games, technology challenges and a cooking component including healthy recipes.

Example activities include learning to use nutrition labels to compare drink choices – followed by making a healthy drink as an alternative to unhealthy choices; or at a more advanced level – comparing energy and sports drinks, then learning about alternatives that are healthier, cheaper and provide the same nutrients.

The Up For the Challenge curriculum has been used in recent years to bring nutrition, fitness and healthy lifestyle programming to thousands of youth across the U.S. through Operation Military Kids. The curriculum has been so well received by military youth programs that other youth programs that do not distinctly target military youth have begun to adopt it. If you work with youth and are interested in accessing the Up for the Challenge resources, a PDF version of the curriculum can be found for free at: