Fort Worth, Texas,
12:25 PM

North Texas Kids Donate to Community Through UNICEF Kid Power Video Program

UNICEF Kid Power is a free digital platform that supports the physical health, mental health, behavior and motivation of participating children by empowering them to help others.

Gym classes at Manuel Jara Elementary School often start with sing-along dance videos that pump up the students’ heart rates and happiness levels.

In one of their favorites, “Get Yo Body Movin’” by Koo Koo Kanga Roo, students work up a sweat doing a dip-push-pull-bounce routine. To end the PE period, they might follow a video through yoga poses for mindfulness and relaxation.

Donna Browne began utilizing these short videos through the UNICEF Kid Power™ platform this school year for warm-ups and cool downs in the physical education classes she teaches on the Manual Jara campus, part of the Fort Worth Independent School District.

UNICEF Kid Power is a free digital platform that supports the physical health, mental health, behavior and motivation of participating children (in kindergarten through eighth grade) by empowering them to help others.

In January 2021, Cook Children’s launched a partnership with UNICEF Kid Power that covers Collin, Denton, Grayson, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Tarrant, and Wise counties. The partnership was the first of its kind for a Texas hospital, impacting more than 36,000 children in the North Texas region.

Students earn digital coins that translate into resources for locally selected groups and UNICEF missions around the world .

Just by doing their yoga and dance videos so often this school year, the students at Manuel Jara unlocked 31 food packets that UNICEF will deliver to children with severe acute malnutrition. Ms. Browne emphasized how excited her classes get each time they hit a goal for a donation.

Browne likes the selection of Kid Power Up videos that help little ones work out their wiggles – and allow older children to put some pizzazz into their squats, push-ups and other calisthenics. Ms. Browne also makes use of the videos that provide social-emotional support for topics such as managing big emotions, resolving conflict, making new friends and being a team player. 

“It’s just been a really good program,” Ms. Browne said. “Some videos are calming, about getting in touch with your feelings. There are a bunch of really fun dance ones and silly ones.”

In the program’s first year, the greatest number of users has been in the Fort Worth and Arlington school districts; additional sites include other schools in the region, after-school care centers, church groups and homes.

Well-Rounded Content for Kids

Courtney Barnard, director of child wellness at The Center for Children's Health, led by Cook Children's, explained that the vision of UNICEF Kid Power aligns with Cook Children’s Promise to improve the health of every child through the prevention and treatment of illness, disease and injury.

“The platform helps Cook Children's meet this goal of healthy lifestyle education, getting kids active on a daily basis,” Courtney said. “And the social-emotional wellness component -- that's huge right now. We believe in the UNICEF Kid Power content. We want that to be accessible in a kid-friendly way, family-friendly way, school-friendly way.”

UNICEF Kid Power regularly adds new videos to address current events in the world and keep the content fresh, said Lauren Purvis, program manager of the child wellness team for The Center for Children’s Health. The staff at The Center for Children’s Health recently used one of the videos to brainstorm during a team-building activity.

“This content isn't just for kids. It's for adults too, or it can be, and you can have fun with it,” she said.

What else makes the Kid Power Up videos so appealing? 

  • Animated characters, celebrities and athletes. Children can dance along with Gabby’s Dollhouse or TrollsTopia (from DreamWorks), learn about self-awareness from WWE Superstar Damian Priest, or hear Dallas Wings forward Satou Sabally encourage them to speak up on behalf of someone being treated unfairly.
  • Diverse presentation of people from different races, ethnicities, ages, genders and abilities, with Spanish subtitles available
  • Not just for PE … but application in the classroom as a brain break, or to learn social-emotional wellness topics, during transition from one activity to the next, or for indoor recess on a rainy day  

“What we hear from our teachers is that when the kids have an outlet -- like doing these videos to get those wiggles out, to get their mind and body ready to learn -- they're better prepared to stay engaged and focus on the lesson,” Courtney said. ”They’re resetting themselves throughout the day .”

As an exercise tool, the three- to five-minute videos can help children form the healthy habit of incorporating physical activity into their daily routines. As a social-emotional tool, the videos help the children learn skills such as breathing techniques and redirecting negative thoughts.

At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year at Manuel Jara, Ms. Browne said, the kindergarten and first-grade students in particular had difficulty coming back from the COVID-19 shutdown. The Kid Power Up videos helped them adjust to in-person learning, she said.

Ms. Browne’s frequent activity on the site in August and September won her a $1,000 grant from World Wrestling Entertainment, another UNICEF Kid Power partner. She plans to spend the money on jump ropes, soccer balls, hula hoops and other recess equipment.  

“I was one of the top people to be watching,” she said. “I didn’t even know there was a contest.”

Kids Make a Local and Global Difference 

The most popular aspect to the program is the component of philanthropy, which brings powerful outcomes for participating kids and the community. As children complete videos, they earn digital coins which are used to unlock global and local impact for UNICEF around the world.

The involvement of Cook Children’s made it possible for the online philanthropic platform to add two new partners: Tarrant Area Food Bank and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. That partnership enables children in North Texas to redeem the digital coins they have earned in the UNICEF Kid Power platform for meals via the mobile food pantries for local families in need, and for AgriLife community garden kits.

“This makes the give-back feature much more personal, helping kids in our own backyard,” Courtney said.

Research shows that helping other activates the brain’s reward centers, which generates happiness, decreases anxiety and protects against depression. By helping others, kids participating in the UNICEF Kid Power program unlock powerful outcomes for themselves too. 

In addition, kids using the UNICEF Kid Power program have unlocked more than 16 million therapeutic food packets that have helped save the lives of more than 100,000 children across the globe.

Teachers tell The Center for Children’s Health that their students erupt in cheers when they reach certain point totals for their video viewership in the UNICEF Kid Power platform. The program aims to encourage in children the sense of leadership and making a positive impact on food insecurity, environmental efforts and other community causes.

“There's that give-back piece that makes UNICEF Kid Power unique. The fact that we can give kids something and then also extend the reach of this work to the local community, is really key for us,” Courtney said.