Insight Grants

Spotlight on Head Start Body Start

The American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR) and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), two associations of the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD), were awarded $12 Million grant in late 2008 from the US Department of Health and Human Services. The grant applied to was the 2008 Head Start Innovations and Improvement Projects program, and AAPAR/NASPE applied under Priority Area 1: National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play for the Head Start Body Start project ( NASPE and AAPAR won the only award made in the nation for this priority area, which I am extremely pleased about since the Insight Team and I generated this grant application. 😉

This four-year grant award will allow Head Start Body Start to accomplish its three main objectives (as stated on the program website):
Administer and support sub-grants for construction or improvement of playgrounds and outdoor play spaces at Head Start Centers
Provide resources, training, and technical assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start grantees
Inform and assist the Office of Head Start in setting national priorities and developing policies
Each year, approximately 380 mini-grants of up to $5,000 each will be awarded to Head Start/Early Head Start Centers for the improvement or creation of playgrounds or outdoor play spaces. This amounts to about $2,000,000 per year and is a tremendous opportunity for these centers. In addition to grants, Head Start Body Start will offer a wide range of training and technical assistance services (including but not limited to self-assessments, professional site assessments and recommendations, online resources, web-based trainings, trainings at conferences, and regional trainings) aimed directly at increasing physical activity and healthy eating among Head Start and Early Head Start Children. Secondarily, the project will also result in data collection on a number of issues for which no data currently exists, such as how physically active Head Start children are typically and what percentage are overweight or obese.

As of 2007, there were 18,875 Head Start Centers and 50,030 Head Start classrooms. 909,201 children were enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start. Together Head Start and Early Head Start serve children ages 0-5 from households with income levels at or below the federal poverty level. Over 60% of Head Start children are from racial or ethnic minority groups, and over 12% have disabilities. While the debate as to why continues, it is well known that children living in poverty tend to have a higher incidence of childhood obesity. NASPE and AAPAR’s project is much needed, and—due to a high-quality, well-thought-out design, very likely to be successful.

The project has three full-time, permanent staff members in addition to support from NASPE’s Executive Director, Charlene Burgeson; AAPAR’s Excutive Director, Mariah Burton Nelson; and NASPE’s Director of Communications, Paula Kun. The Head Start Body Start permanent staff members are Karin Spencer, Center Director; Katina Kearney, Training Director; and Kellie May, Program Assistant. The project team also includes five Master Trainers (, a significant Advisory Board, outside evaluation consultant Dr. Paul Wright, and hundreds of professional consultants. AAPAR and NASPE designed the project to leverage existing strengths, resources, and experiences, but did not fail to acknowledge where more help or resources would be necessary or best for the project in order to ensure the greatest possible chance of wide-ranging success. The participating staff, consultants, and board members reflect this as AAPAR and NASPE reached out (DURING the application period, which is ideal) to individuals that were not just field professionals, but recognized field EXPERTS and brought them on board. This is a great strategy that will enhance any application because it enables the writer to be more specific about what will happen and who will do it, and demonstrates the organization has already done considerable legwork and will be able to mobilize quickly if funding is awarded.

So what’s going on now with Head Start Body Start? Well, the first RFP for grants for playgrounds and outdoor play spaces for Head Start and Early Head Start Centers has been released!! Applications are due by July 1, 2009 and awards are anticipated in September. All documents and information needed to submit an application can be found on the main program page ( in the red box in the center of the page. If you’re thinking, “$5,000 would be nice, but play areas are expensive. Can we really accomplish anything with $5,000?” worry no further! NASPE and AAPAR have proactively responded to this issue. Earlier this year, a vendor request for proposals was issued to generate a range of value-added packages of $5,000 or less that would empower Head Start Body Start grantees to effectively put grant funds to use in a way that is supported by the original Department of Health and Human Services grant. You can find information on selected packages and vendors in the grant applications materials posted on the site.

While you can’t apply for a grant if you are NOT a Head Start or Early Head Start Center, you CAN access some of the great technical assistance resources through the online HSBS Toolbox ( and monthly newsletters ( The Toolbox resources are easy-to-implement ideas for increasing physical activity in early childhood. They can be used in the classroom, in a community-based project setting, or at home! (Parents, check out the activity calendars!) The Head Start Body Start project plan also includes two important literature reviews and the preparation of a policy guide, as well, which might also be posted online or made available for purchase in the future.

I think this is an outstanding project that is off to a great start! It will be exciting to watch it progress this year and over the next three years. I’ll try to keep you posted on its progress, but visit the project site for more details and background information. :o)

Insight Grants