What is the Background of the Legacy Leadership Institute on Humor Practices?

This Institute is based on an international model combining lifelong learning and civic engagement and is one of the Legacy Leadership Institutes developed by Laura B. Wilson, PhD, Director of the Center on Aging.

The Institute is a partnership between the University of Maryland Center on Aging and the Gliner Center for Humor Studies, under the direction of Lawrence E. Mintz, PhD in the Department of American Studies.

The model demonstration site for the Leadership Institute is the Chillum Elementary School, Hyattsville, Prince George's County, under the leadership of Ms. Sheila Jefferson, Principal.

The model demonstration is included in the 2005-2006 work plan objectives of the Prince George's County Team of Maryland Action for Healthy Kids.

A generous donation by Art Gliner has made it possible to translate humor research and studies into practice and service to the community.

What is the Health Issue?

The United States has a serious health problem. Overweight and obesity is an epidemic in the United States according to The Surgeons General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight. The Centers for Disease Control reports the percentage of children and adolescents who are overweight has tripled since the 1960s. Poor eating habits, beginning in childhood, contribute to the development of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other serious and costly health problems. The Call to Action has identified schools as a key setting for offering information and programs to promote healthy lifestyles since children spend a large portion of their time in school (Maryland Action for Health Kids Summit, 2004).

How Can We Make A Difference?

The intergenerational Legacy Leadership Institute on Humor Practices of the University of Maryland Center on Aging seeks to address this epidemic of overweight and obesity. Leaders age 50+ are trained to use a unique vehicle, humor practices, to deliver messages about healthy eating to children in schools.

What Knowledge and Skills Do Leaders Develop?

Leaders are trained by experts at the University of Maryland through interactive seminars in these areas: the art and science of humor, humor practices and activities, healthy eating, the growth and development of children, schools, public policy and community, and leadership.

How Do Leaders Promote Healthy Eating?

Legacy Leaders apply their training through meaningful service under the guidance of school principals and Institute staff. Leaders meet with children in a variety of venues: after-school programs, individual classrooms, one-on-one, and the school as a whole. Leaders join with school faculty and staff, parents and families, the PTA, and the community at large to promote healthy eating behaviors.

What Humor Practices and Activities are Used to Convey Messages about Healthy Eating?

A collection of over 75 humor-based activities about healthy eating are drawn upon by Leaders including:

  1. Performance activities (skits, improvisation, role-playing, music, rhyme and song.
  2. Graphic expression activities (pictures, cartoons, comic strips, posters, artwork, photography and videos, bumper-stickers, t-shirts, legal graffiti).
  3. Joke activities
  4. Story telling and anecdotes activities.
  5. Game activities.

What are the Healthy Eating Messages?

The healthy eating messages that are the focus of the humor-based activities comply with the latest 2005 nutrition guidelines:

  1. The Food Pyramid
  2. Grains
  3. Vegetables
  4. Fruit
  5. Dairy
  6. Meat
  7. Fats, Oils and Sweets
  8. Water
  9. Salt
  10. Fast Foods
  11. Understanding Food Labels
  12. Food Safety
  13. Meals and Snacks
  14. Fitness

How is Impact Determined?

Leaders and Institute staff join with participating children, principals, faculty and staff, parents, the PTA and community members to consider the impact of humor based activities on healthy eating behaviors.

How Can Leaders Continue to be Involved?

Legacy Leaders are encouraged to continue to promote healthy eating behaviors. The Institute arranges opportunities for Legacy Leaders to continue serving in Chillum Elementary School (the model demonstration site) and in other schools and organizations. Legacy Leaders are invited to continue their training through additional seminars and to become peer trainers of new Legacy Leaders.

Who is Eligible to Participate?

Everyone age 50+ is welcome to complete the training and provide service leadership in the community.

What is the Fee?

There is no fee to become a Legacy Leader.