In the battle against childhood obesity, many schools are revamping their lunch menus, removing junk food from vending machines, and instituting exercise and healthy eating programs. First Lady Michelle Obama has championed the fight against this epidemic and thanks to two tech-savvy educators, students at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, California have joined the crusade.

The Crenshaw High School Digital Media team became an official high school partner of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity. Let's Move reports over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or clinically obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40 percent of children are overweight or clinically obese.

In south Los Angeles there is a significant Latino and African American population, Digital Media Consultant Daphne Bradford and Biology Teacher Jacqueline Lopez saw a need to address the issue in their classroom as a way to engage and teach their students about real world scenarios. Because so many of their students had an affinity for gaming, the two decided to use game design as an innovative educational vehicle to get raise awareness with their class and become actively part of finding a solution.

Fighting ObesityBradford and Lopez split their 11th and 12th graders into teams and tasked them with a challenging and fun mission: design an Xbox Kinect game to help fight the global childhood obesity epidemic and type 2 diabetes. Each team researched obesity and type 2 diabetes, and combined their understanding of biology, digital media technology, and computer science programming to develop a game that would educate students, parents and K-12 school districts about the importance of healthy eating and exercise. For many students, learning C# coding software for this project was their first introduction to computer science.

While developing their games, students faced the challenge of making sure it was fun but also accurate. For example, one game challenges players to catch and separate healthy food from junk food falling from a tree. Students test marketed the games in various Biology and PE classrooms and consulted with local-area physicians to make sure they were properly educating the public about childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Rounding out the projects, students submitted their software design to the Microsoft 2012 Imagine Cup competition, becoming the only students in the Los Angeles Unified School District to submit an entry and one of only a small handful of high school students that applied for this prestigious competition. While the game did not advance to the 2012 Imagine Cup U.S. Finals, the students accomplished something not many high school students can say they did; they created a fun product that can help address a real and growing epidemic in America.

We applaud the impact these educators are having on students’ education and their future, and the extremely creative work of their students. Bradford and Lopez are among 102 educators around the country selected to attend the Partners in Learning US Forum, which brings together like-minded educators using technology to creatively engage students. The Forum also provides them the opportunity to collaborate on new teaching ideas to help their students in the classroom and beyond.

If you would like to follow the progress of the 2012 US Forum, track #PILUS on Twitter and follow @TeachTec for updates. Select educators from the US Forum will advance to compete and share their work on a global scale at the Partners in Learning Global Forum in Athens, Greece in November 2012.

Regards,

Rob Bayuk

Program Director, Microsoft U.S. Partners in Learning Team

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