Engaging Youth in Learning about Healthful Eating and Active Living: An Evaluation of Educational Theater Programs

Published:November 28, 2011DOI:



      To compare knowledge gains and knowledge retention of healthful eating and active living behaviors in elementary school children participating in Educational Theatre Programs (ETP).


      The study sample included 47 schools (2,915 third- or fourth-grade students) in 8 Kaiser Permanente regions. Children's knowledge of 4 healthful behaviors was measured using a brief survey before and immediately after performances, followed by a post-delay survey 3 weeks later.


      Statistically significant increases in knowledge pre/post for individual topics (P < .01). The percentage of children who answered all 4 questions correctly increased from 17% to 63% immediately after ETP performances (P < .01). Knowledge was retained over the short term; the proportion of students who correctly identified recommended healthful eating/active living practices had declined only slightly 3 weeks later.

      Conclusions and Implications

      The ETP significantly improved participating students' knowledge of healthful eating and active living concepts. Theater programs should be considered for inclusion in elementary school health curricula.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access

      SNEB Member Login

      SNEB Members, full access to the journal is a member benefit. Login via the SNEB Website to access all journal content and features.


      Subscribe to Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Ariza A.J.
        • Chen E.H.
        • Binns H.J.
        • Christoffel K.K.
        Risk factors for overweight in five- to six-year-old Hispanic-American children: a pilot study.
        J Urban Health. 2004; 81: 150-161
        • Fleming-Moran M.
        • Thiagarajah K.
        Behavioral interventions and the role of television in the growing epidemic of adolescent obesity—data from the 2001 Youth Risk Behavioral Survey.
        Methods Inf Med. 2005; 44: 303-309
        • Kavey R.E.
        How sweet it is: sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, obesity, and cardiovascular risk in childhood.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2010; 110: 1456-1460
        • Laurson K.R.
        • Eisenmann J.C.
        • Welk G.J.
        • Wickel E.E.
        • Gentile D.A.
        • Walsh D.A.
        Combined influence of physical activity and screen time recommendations on childhood overweight.
        J Pediatr. 2008; 153: 209-214
        • Russ S.A.
        • Larson K.
        • Franke T.M.
        • Halfon N.
        Associations between media use and health in US children.
        Acad Pediatr. 2009; 9: 300-306
        • Montgomery K.C.
        • Chester J.
        Interactive food and beverage marketing: targeting adolescents in the digital age.
        J Adolesc Health. 2009; 45: S18-S29
        • Wootan M.G.
        • Batada A.
        • Balkus O.
        Report Card on Food Marketing Policies.
        Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, DC2010
        • Strasburger V.C.
        • Jordan A.B.
        • Donnerstein E.
        Health effects of media on children and adolescents.
        Pediatrics. 2010; 125: 756-767
        • Herman K.M.
        • Craig C.L.
        • Gauvin L.
        • Katzmarzyk P.T.
        Tracking of obesity and physical activity from childhood to adulthood: The Physical Activity Longitudinal Study.
        Int J Pediatr Obes. 2008; 15: 1-8
        • Singh A.S.
        • Mulder C.
        • Twisk J.W.
        • van Mechelen W.
        • Chinapaw M.J.
        Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: a systematic review of the literature.
        Obes Rev. 2008; 9: 474-488
        • Jia H.
        • Lubetkin E.I.
        Trends in quality-adjusted life-years lost contributed by smoking and obesity.
        Am J Prev Med. 2010; 38: 138-144
        • Perry C.L.
        • Zauner M.
        • Oakes J.M.
        • Taylor G.
        • Bishop D.B.
        Evaluation of a theater production about eating behavior of children.
        J Sch Health. 2002; 72: 256-261
        • Rossiter K.
        • Kontos P.
        • Colantonio A.
        • Gilbert J.
        • Gray J.
        • Keightley M.
        Staging data: theatre as a tool for analysis and knowledge transfer in health research.
        Soc Sci Med. 2008; 66: 130-146
        • Begley K.
        • Haddad A.R.
        • Christensen C.
        • Lust E.
        A health education program for underserved community youth led by health professions students.
        Am J Pharm Educ. 2009; 73 (Accessed November 8, 2011): 98
        • Kuross E.
        • Folta S.
        Involving cultural institutions in the prevention of childhood obesity: the Boston Children's Museum's GoKids Project.
        J Nutr Educ Behav. 2010; 42: 427-429
      1. Littledyke M. Drama and primary science. Paper presented at: British Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, September 13-15, 2001; Leeds, United Kingdom.

        • Rankins J.
        • Kirksey O.
        • Bogan Y.
        • Brown B.
        Impact of a low-intensity pedagogical model for integrating MedlinePlus exercises into middle school nutrition lessons.
        J Med Libr Assoc. 2007; 95: 388-393
        • Rankins J.
        • Weatherspoon L.
        • Cook L.
        • et al.
        Influences of a chronic disease risk reduction curriculum called “live!” on fat and fiber knowledge and attitudes of black and white adolescents.
        J Nutr Educ. 2000; 32: 14-20
        • Teeman D.
        • Reed F.
        • Bielby G.
        • Scott E.
        • Sims D.
        Evaluation of the PhunkyFoods Programme: Final Report. National Foundation for Educational Research, Slough, United Kingdom2008
        • Joronen K.
        • Rankin S.H.
        • Astedt-Kurki P.
        School-based drama interventions in health promotion for children and adolescents: systematic review.
        J Adv Nurs. 2008; 63: 116-131
        • Denman S.
        • Pearson J.
        • Moody D.
        • Davis P.
        • Madeley R.
        Theatre in education on HIV and AIDS: a controlled study of schoolchildren's knowledge and attitudes.
        Health Educ J. 1995; 54: 3-17
        • Thrush D.
        • Fife-Schaw C.
        • Breakwell G.M.
        Evaluation of interventions to reduce smoking.
        Swiss J Psychol. 1999; 58: 85-100
      2. Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre Program celebrates 25 years [press release]. Published October 11, 2011. Accessed November 11, 2011.

        • Expert Committee
        Assessment of child and adolescent overweight and obesity.
        Pediatrics. 2007; 120: 163-228
        • Essler V.
        • Arthur A.
        • Stickley T.
        Using a school-based intervention to challenge stigmatizing attitudes and promote mental health in teenagers.
        J Ment Health. 2006; 15: 243-250
        • Hillman E.
        • Hovell M.F.
        • Williams L.
        • et al.
        Pregnancy, STDS, and AIDS prevention: evaluation of New Image Teen Theatre.
        AIDS Educ Prev. 1991; 3: 328-340
        • Starkey F.
        • Orme J.
        Evaluation of a primary school drug drama project: methodological issues and key findings.
        Health Educ Res. 2001; 16: 609-622
        • Dalrymple L.
        • Du Toit M.K.
        The evaluation of a drama approach to AIDS education.
        Educ Psychol. 1993; 13: 147-154
        • McEwan R.T.
        • Bhopal R.
        • Patton W.
        Drama on HIV and AIDS: an evaluation of a theatre-in-education programme.
        Health Educ J. 1991; 50: 155-160
        • Portes P.
        • Howell S.
        • Kirby K.
        • Kidwell J.
        Assessing the effect of live theater on adolescents' attitudes toward pregnancy.
        Int J Cogn Educ Mediated Learn. 1993; 3: 122-131