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FRIMEDBIO-Fri med.,helse,biol

Active Learning Norwegian Preschool(er)s (ACTNOW)

Alternative title: Aktive lærande barnehagar og barnehagebarn

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

Physical activity plays a key role in promotion of child health and development from an early age. Yet, there are growing concerns about low physical activity levels among preschoolers. As 97% of 3-5-year-olds in Norway attend preschool, preschools are unique arenas for promotion of physical activity, health and development, giving every child the best start in life. The aim of Active Learning Norwegian Preschool(er)s (ACTNOW) is therefore to develop and implement an effective and sustainable model for professional development of preschool staff and for increased physical activity in preschools, to shift societies toward a more active way of life, to improve children’s health and development, and to reduce social inequality from an early age. Through this approach, we aim to facilitate innovation in the public sector, to shape future public health and early childhood education policy, and to lay the foundation for a physically active, equitable, and sustainable society. The project has a 2-level intervention model of professional development of preschool staff aimed to improve their capacity, motivation, and opportunity to promote physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity, motor challenging physical activity, cognitively engaging physically active play, and physically active learning for children aged 3-5 years. The intervention is developed with strong user involvement from preschool owners and relevant stakeholders to facilitate the development of feasible and sustainable models of professional development. On the preschool level, we will investigate how the intervention affects preschool practices related to physical activity. On the child level, we will investigate how the intervention affects children's physical, motor skill, socio-emotional, and cognitive development. The intervention will be evaluated using a randomized trial on the preschool level as well as the child level over 18 months in a sample of 46 preschools (23 intervention and 23 control) in Western Norway. We have worked together with 77 staff (directors and minimum one teacher from each classroom of the participating preschools) over a 2-year period, with the first 7 months being an intensive period of professional development. The professional development (Year 1) was structured as 6 days of face-to-face seminars (4 days on Campus and 2 days locally in each preschool), 2 webinars (240 minutes in total) and 9 digital lectures (240 minutes in total about the intervention content at child level and the development work process at the preschool level), amounting to approximately 50 hours in total. In addition, we had a one-day physical booster session during Year 2 (12 months after kick-off). Intervention preschools were further supported by a digital physical activity ideas toolbox that was co-created with researchers and staff (now made publicly available here: and a package of movement-play-learning equipment. Of the 77 staff participating in the project, 16 completed a 15-credit university module on a voluntary basis. This course has been further developed into a 30-credit education module “Fysisk-motorisk aktivitet og utvikling i barnehagen” funded by the Norwegian Directorate of Education. So far, the process evaluation of the intervention shows that 94-95% of staff are happy that they have participated in the project, consider they have developed sufficient expertise to promote physical activity in preschool, and that they likely will continue working with the intervention model after ending the project. However, they also report that physical activity could be better integrated with their other activities and only 21% report they have managed to implement all intervention components as planned (35-64 for individual components). 1265 children participate in the outcome evaluation. We have no published results on effects at this point of time. Through ACTNOW, we aim to build a nationally and internationally leading transdisciplinary research group on intervention research integrating physical activity, public health, and early childhood education that will be a springboard for efforts to promote physical activity and human capital in young children.

Physical activity (PA) plays a key role in preventing a host of non-communicable diseases and developing human capital from an early age. Yet, there are growing concerns about low PA levels among preschoolers. As 97% of 3-5-year-olds in Norway attend preschool, preschools are unique arenas for intervention, laying the foundation for equitable development of health, human capital, and life opportunities. Yet, we lack evidence of scalable, effective and sustainable interventions to increase PA and concomitant outcomes in this age group. Therefore, we will conduct a large cluster randomized controlled trial investigating the effects of PA professional development of preschool directors and staff (a 15-credit university module) on preschool PA practices and child health and development during 18 months. We will recruit 40-44 preschools and 700–1100 children in one county in the western part of Norway to allow for detecting small to moderate effect sizes and ensuring a heterogeneous sample for the study of implementation. The project is organized in 3 work packages to investigate children’s physical development, children’s socio-emotional and cognitive development, and intervention implementation. The intervention will be developed with strong user involvement from municipalities and relevant stakeholders to facilitate the development of sustainable solutions. In strong collaboration with partners of national and international stature, we will develop a leading research group on transdisciplinary intervention research relating to promotion of PA and public health in the preschool sector. If successful, ACTNOW will be a springboard for future national and international implementation of PA initiatives in preschools, along with joint international project proposals and efforts to promote PA, physical fitness, motor competences, socio-emotional health, cognition, learning, and human capital in complex and culturally diverse contexts.

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FRIMEDBIO-Fri med.,helse,biol

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