About Media-Smart Youth




Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active!® is an interactive after-school education program for youth ages 11 to 13. The curriculum is designed to empower young people to:

  • Become aware of—and think critically about—media's role in influencing their nutrition and physical activity choices.

  • Build skills that help them make informed decisions about being physically active and eating nutritious food in daily life.

  • Establish healthy habits that will last into adulthood.

  • Learn about media and create their own media products to educate their peers.

The curriculum combines media literacy and youth development principles and practices with up-to-date research findings and federal recommendations about nutrition and physical activity. It is also consistent with widely accepted, national learning standards.

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What Do Youth Do in the Program?

Young people participate in 10 structured lessons facilitated by an adult in their after-school or community program. The lessons are based on four key areas and end with a Big Production.

Key Focus Areas

"The youth really do learn about how the media influences their choices."

Media-Smart Youth Facilitator, Cobb & Douglas Public Health

The curriculum focuses on four key areas:

  • Media awareness: Using the 6 Media Questions (PDF - 665 KB), young people learn how to recognize and analyze techniques that media producers use to get their attention and how to evaluate media messages for accuracy and consistency with their ideas about being healthy.

  • Media production: Youth practice what they learn in each lesson by creating Mini-Productions in which they develop their own media messages. The Big Production, the program's culminating project, enables youth to create media products that promote healthy nutrition and physical activity to their peers.

  • Nutrition: A variety of activities encourages youth to choose vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and calcium-rich foods, and to reduce their consumption of solid fats and added sugars. Lessons also encourage youth to be thoughtful when choosing snacks; each lesson includes a Snack Break in which youth enjoy nutritious foods they may not have tried before.

  • Physical activity: Youth learn the importance of daily physical activity and develop strategies to become more active in their daily lives. Physical activity, they discover, is anything that gets their bodies moving, such as walking the dog, dancing, or carrying groceries. A 10-minute Action Break during each lesson engages youth in a fun physical activity.

10 Structured Lessons

Each of the 10 lessons follows a simple structure designed to engage and motivate youth. Below is a sample lesson. You also can view and download individual lessons to learn more.

Lesson Strucure Sample (From Lesson 4)

Activity A: These activities emphasize one of the four key areas of Media-Smart Youth: media awareness, media production, nutrition, or physical activity.

Hurray for Whole Grains! The activity begins with a brief discussion about grains and whole grains and their importance to health. The youth act out a grain milling process to demonstrate the difference between a whole grain and an enriched, refined grain. The activity ends with a quick discussion about ways to choose more whole-grain foods in daily eating.

Snack Break: The delicious and nutritious snacks reinforce the concepts described in the lessons.

Fruit and Krunch Kebabs:Youth make their own kebabs by dipping fruits in fat-free or low-fat yogurt and rolling the fruit in whole-grain breakfast cereal.

Activity B: These activities build on what youth learned during Activity A and further emphasize the objectives of the lesson.

Cutting Back on Solid Fats and Added Sugars: Youth talk about the importance of choosing foods that are low in solid fats and added sugars. They also discuss some major sources of solid fats and added sugars and work in groups to identify ways to reduce consumption of these items when choosing foods and drinks.

Action Break: Youth have the chance to get up, get active, and get energized.

A Cool Wind Blows: Similar to musical chairs, this activity has youth answer questions related to media, food, and physical activity while switching chairs. The person left without a chair at the end of a round asks a question in the next round, until everyone has a turn.

Activity C—Mini-Production: Youth use the skills they have learned in the lesson to create a simple media product, such as a blog, jingle, skit, billboard, or page for a social networking site.

Creating a Nutrition Fan Page for a Social Networking Site: Youth design a mock page for other young people, which incorporates the food and nutrition topics covered so far in the workshop—increasing consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods and reducing consumption of solid fats and added sugars.

Finishing Up the Lesson: Youth summarize the day's lesson, ask questions, and receive take-home materials with targeted tips for practicing their media smarts.

Finishing Up the Lesson: Youth share something interesting or fun they learned during the lesson and get a chance to ask questions. They also receive the Take Home a New Idea! and Tips for Media-Smart Parents handouts before they leave.

Big Production

"Letting children know they have the opportunity to be creative is key for recruiting them for the program."

Media-Smart Youth Facilitator, Girl Scouts of Rolling Hills Council

The curriculum concludes with the Big Production—a media project that youth create to motivate their peers to take a specific action for better nutrition or increased physical activity. The Big Production lets participants put all that they've learned about media, nutrition, and physical activity into practice. Big Productions range from simple projects, such as a store window display or school newspaper article, to more complex ones, such as a blog, video, or physical activity event to raise money for a local charity.

Watch some of the Big Productions youth have developed as Media-Smart Youth participants.


A text alternative is available at http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/links/Pages/transcript_050713-MSY-spotlight-BPM.aspx.


"The kids love Media-Smart Youth."

Media-Smart Youth Facilitator, YMCA of Coastal Georgia

Watch as Media-Smart Youth program facilitators share their experiences using the curriculum, offer suggestions on how to teach the program in different settings, and undertake the program's concluding media project—the Big Production—including ideas for finding a media partner to help participants with their project.


A text alternative is available at http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/resources/links/Pages/transcript_050713-MSY-spotlight-VOE.aspx  

How Was Media-Smart Youth Developed?

Media-Smart Youth underwent a thoughtful and deliberate development process, with extensive review and testing. The initial draft was pilot-tested, extensively revised, pilot-tested again, and further refined. This development process resulted in the first release of the curriculum in October 2005. Subsequent feedback led to development of the Media-Smart Youth Guide for Training Program Facilitators.

Media-Smart Youth was selected as one of four youth curricula included in We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children's Activity & Nutrition). We Can! is a nationwide education program that aims to help youth stay at a healthy weight by encouraging improved food choices, increased physical activity, and reduced screen time (time spent sitting in front of a TV or computer).

Pilot Sites

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) conducted a 10-site pilot test with more than 275 youth. This pilot phase was very valuable in developing and refining the Media-Smart Youth curriculum. The youth-serving organizations that participated in the pilot phase are listed below. (Note: Some organizations had more than one pilot site):

  • Girl Scout Council of Greater Minneapolis, Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • Girl Scouts of Rolling Hills Council, North Branch, Rolling Hills, New Jersey

  • Latin American Youth Center, Washington, D.C.

  • Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Chicago, Illinois

  • Spartanburg Terrace Tenants Association/Save the Children, Spartanburg, South Carolina

  • Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation, Long Island City, New York

  • YMCA of Westfield, Westfield, New Jersey

The youth and the adult facilitators and program directors for these sites provided weekly feedback as they used the Media-Smart Youth curriculum. Their input and advice helped to shape the curriculum during every phase of development.

Expert Discussion Panel

NICHD sponsored the Youth and Media Expert Discussion in June 2009 to bring together researchers and experts to discuss the role of the media in young people's lives, particularly new media, such as social networking sites, blogs, and text messages. The meeting's goals were to:

  • Find out what types of media young people are using and how they're using them.

  • Learn what kinds of advertising are most prevalent in these types of media.

  • Find out how the ability to generate content in new media might influence the way we teach media literacy in the Media-Smart Youth program.

The presentations and discussions helped inform later revisions to the program.

Media-Smart Youth Program Evaluation, 2009

In January 2009, the NICHD completed an in-depth evaluation of Media-Smart Youth to assess how the curriculum can be implemented in an after-school program environment and to measure the program outcomes among the youth who participated.

The NICHD conducted the evaluation of Media-Smart Youth using a randomized group experimental design. Pairs of schools with after-school programs were matched according to socioeconomic status of the schools' communities and were randomly assigned to either the experimental or the control group.

Program Evaluation Results

"The change in the kids after they go through this program is incredible."

Media-Smart Youth Facilitator, Girl Scout Council of Greater Minneapolis

Results indicated that, compared to youth who did not participate in the program, youth who participated in Media-Smart Youth showed:

  • A statistically significant increase in knowledge and skills in nutrition, physical activity, media awareness, and media analysis

  • A trend toward positive intention to change behavior in the next month by making more healthy choices, such as doing more weight-bearing activities, eating fewer high-fat snacks, and eating or drinking more foods with calcium

Learn More About the 2009 Evaluation

The Media-Smart Youth Program Evaluation Fact Sheet provides a concise description of the evaluation design, the findings, and comments from Media-Smart Youth facilitators around the country about the program's impact during the program's initial pilot in 2007–2008.

Read the Media-Smart Youth Program Evaluation Report (PDF - 1.5 MB) to get an in-depth look at the evaluation methods, data analysis, and results from the initial plot.

Media-Smart Youth Upgraded: What's New

The updated second edition of Media-Smart Youth, released in 2013, retains all the elements that made the first edition successful and includes a few new features, such as:

  • Digital media information in the discussions and activities
  • All the latest federal nutrition and physical activity guidelines
  • Tips for Media-Smart Parents (PDF - 311 KB) handouts for each lesson, which complement the take-home sheets for youth and offer parents and guardians an opportunity to learn alongside their children
  • New resources and tips in the appendices

Lessons Learned from Media-Smart Youth Sites in 2013

Ten organizations pilot tested the upgraded Media-Smart Youth program in 2013, and the NICHD gathered input from each of them. To learn more about the organizations' accomplishments and challenges, you can view and download the full report's Lessons Learned report (PDF – 768 KB) or the executive summary (PDF - 260 KB).