Healthier and Happier

A woman happily reading a book to several small children.
Sha Boyd, childcare employee, reading to children

Extension program helps childcare employees

When the mailer arrived at Barbara Henson’s Nursery and Pre-K to invite the staff to participate in the Healthy Homes Initiative, director Beverly Henson admits she felt a twinge of surprise—and skepticism.

“It was going to be 6 contact hours, and no one ever does 6 at once. It’s the maximum that you can earn at one time, and getting so many hours at once in a local place is really hard for us,” Henson explains. “So I said, ‘We’re going to go and get those hours.’”

Altogether, eight employees, including Henson, signed up to earn 6 continuing education units in one Saturday session at the local Mississippi State University Extension Service office. Fifteen units are required annually.

Parents who tour Henson’s childcare facility are impressed by the “5 acres of pure fun” featured in the outdoor play area, Henson emphasizes. The nursery, pre-K, and kindergarten to sixth-grade after-school classrooms are clean, colorful, and safe. The daycare is licensed to hold 97 children during the school year and more than 120 during the summer months.

Beverly has worked at her mother’s longtime-licensed daycare in Meridian for most of her life, only taking a break to earn her degree in physical education and recreation from the Mississippi University for Women.

When she first saw the announcement for the Healthy Homes Initiative training session, Henson says, she didn’t think it would impact her team’s approach to working with children. Henson assumed that the training topics, like making homes safer and controlling mold, would emphasize the same habits and practices that her team already uses.

Henson was familiar with Extension and Lauderdale County agent Patti Swearingen because Extension offers TummySafe, the state-mandated food-service program for licensed childcare centers. Swearingen, along with Susan Cosgrove, an Extension area family-resource management agent, delivered the session Henson attended.

“Most of the information was presented on PowerPoint, and they kept it moving fast, whatever the topic. It didn’t seem long. Patti and Susan were good presenters, and we had lunch, too,” Beverly remembers. “They were really open to questions. I really enjoyed it. This was my first real Extension experience, and I was pleasantly surprised.

“They have two thumbs up from me!”

What They Learned

Sha Boyd has been with Barbara Henson’s Nursery and Pre-K for 12 years.

“I enjoyed the training, and I appreciate Extension being there on a Saturday to give us 6 hours. I learned new things about lead and mold, and a lot of other stuff. It was very educational.

“One of my (children’s) parents smokes, and I shared with her about not smoking around her child. Now, she’s coming in not smelling like smoke. She’s smoking outside now.

“I didn’t really know that much about mold, either. But at the training, I learned how it affects adults, how you’ll have flu-like symptoms. When you live in an older home without a fan in the bathroom, you can take a fan and blow that air out.

“I learned a lot from the training, and I’m on my guard now.”

Brandie Cook has worked at the Nursery and Pre-K for 8 years.

“There was a lot of important stuff that I didn’t know—stuff about my own house: the mold, the air fresheners, the different cleaning products. Air fresheners and candles can affect your breathing. Mold can be anywhere, and it can affect children and adults.

“They gave us folders with all the information, and they even asked us to come up with our own questions. They were very thorough.

“We don’t want to do anything that might make our children sick. The whole presentation was well thought-out and well put-together. We learned a lot, I enjoyed it, and I’ll plan to do it again.”

Good Health Begins at Home!

Extension’s Healthy Homes Initiative, based on the Healthy Homes Partnership, aims to improve health and safety for people of all ages in different indoor environments.

Healthy Homes topics:

  • asthma and allergies
  • carbon monoxide
  • drinking water
  • hazardous household products
  • indoor air quality
  • integrated pest management
  • lead
  • mold and moisture control
  • home safety and accessibility

This training is for:

  • parents
  • grandparents
  • community-based civic groups
  • community outreach workers
  • childcare providers
  • environmental health practitioners
  • leaders of community-based organizations
  • library patrons
  • Master Homemaker Volunteer groups
  • public health nurses
  • public housing authority employees
  • tribal environmental health officials

Extension agents are available to offer this training upon request.  Visit to learn more!

Making Homes Healthier Together

Extension now delivers Healthy Homes Solutions training in Mississippi as part of the Healthy Homes Initiative, which has a special focus on childcare providers.

Extension is partnering with the Mississippi Department of Health, the agency overseeing state licensure for childcare centers, to provide childcare workers with education about how physical environments impact children’s health. Children are among the most vulnerable of Mississippi’s population, so this new partnership is especially important to the Extension family.

Brooke Knight, an Extension agent in Jones County, has worked for years in programs to assist and support childcare workers. Knight modified and adapted information from the Healthy Homes Solutions training program to meet state licensure requirements.

Knight works with Dr. David Buys, Extension state health specialist, and Susan Cosgrove, family-resource management agent, to deliver research-based education about indoor environments to childcare providers.

State health department officials are also helping: Jessica Heap, a childcare licensure specialist, attends some training sessions to answer questions, facilitate activities, and provide support. MSU food science, nutrition, and health promotion professor Barry Hunt and assistant professor Brittney Oliver have also helped make the curriculum more accessible to childcare providers.


MSU Extension Service
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Extension Matters cover volume 3 number 1.