Letting Girls Lead
The Girls Empowering Movement (GEM) program was informed by The Power Up for 30 Middle School Girls Pilot and research led by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, Spitfire Strategies and HealthMPowers. From January to December 2018, HealthMPowers designed and tested the pilot program where middle school girls were engaged in a “design thinking” process. This required them to investigate the problem of inactivity among their peers, craft a plan and create a youth-led physical activity program at their school or site.
Using lessons learned from Power Up for 30, a statewide coordinated physical activity initiative, HealthMPowers expanded the model to focus on increasing physical activity in adolescent girls through programming at one school-based site and one out of school (OST) site using youth engagement strategies. Learnings from the pilot program have been applied to the framework for GEM, ensuring that the initiative will create a sustainable statewide program model that provides relevant physical activity opportunities and leadership development for middle school girls.
Examining Barriers to Physical Activity
Thirty girls, ages 11 to 14 years, were recruited for participation in the “Power Up for 30 Middle School Girls Physical Activity Project” at two sites. The girls used the design thinking process to examine barriers and motivators to getting girls physically active. This process allowed the girls to be both physical activity learners and leaders. The resulting program increased physical activity opportunities, girls’ ability to be mentors and role models, daily steps, leadership and skills-building.
Northbrook Middle School Fit Club
Northbrook Middle School in Gwinnett County Georgia implemented a before school intervention. The girls named their group the “FIT Girls Club.” They were responsible for designing the activities and incentives for the program based on their own motivators. They also encouraged other girls to join.
- By the end of the year, attendance in the club nearly doubled in size.
- Girls set personal and group goals and milestones. In the end, steps increased by 50%.
Joseph B. Whitehead Boys & Girls Club
Joseph B. Whitehead Boys & Girls Club in South Atlanta implemented an after-school program.
- The girls developed and implemented a Double Dutch mentoring program.
- The program was so successful that it was expanded to 12 more Boys and Girls Clubs with ~300 participants.
Changing Perceptions of Physical Activity
During the pilot programs, girls led a site survey to seek input from their peers and found:
- Only 40 percent of girls said physical activity was fun on the pre-survey, compared to 100 percent at the end.
- 80 percent of girls said, “I get embarrassed doing physical activity in front of others” before the program. At the end, no participant agreed with this phrase.
- Girls lack access to relevant physical activity opportunities.
- Girls really do enjoy being active when the opportunity is provided.
- Girls enjoy motivating each other.
- Girls enjoy being active together, in a space for girls only.
- Exposure to options is key for girls to develop their own program.
- Girls enjoy competition in a group setting in non-traditional activities but shy away from individual competition.
- Teachers must be trained to advocate for and engage girls as leaders—allowing the girls to be the change agents rather than the adult.
Through strong partnerships and unique programming, GEM is empowering girls to create physical activity programs, improve fitness levels, promote long term health, and enhance their emotional well-being. Your support today will help us continue to deliver innovative youth-led programming to girls across Georgia.