The BigO project in schools
We all want children to be able to grow-up in a healthy environment. Unfortunately, current living environments often discourage healthy behaviours, such as eating healthily and exercising. The BigO project aims to gather information on how (un)healthy the behaviours and living environments of different children are. With information from many students in different locations, we can detect which aspects of behaviour and living environments are important targets of public health policies. This will lead to a living environment that encourages, rather than discourages, healthy behaviour.
How does BigO work?
In the BigO project, students (9 – 18 years) become citizen scientists by collecting data on their behaviours and living environment using the myBigO app on a smartphone or smartwatch. In this way, students can experience what it is like to be a scientist and collect data, in an educational and fun way. Not only is it personally interesting, but with the information gathered, citizen scientists also help future generations of children by helping to find answers to the question of how living environments across Europe can be made more healthy.
“Using the BigO app was a nice experience” – Girl (12 years old), Sweden
In the myBigO app, students answer questions, take pictures of food advertisements they encounter, and of the foods they consume. This only takes a few minutes per day. In the online portal, they can then see how their city compares to other cities, such as where the most food advertisements were found.
“BigO is very nice and helps a lot. I like that I can track my data uploads” – Boy (17 years old), Greece
What do students learn?
Participating in BigO teaches children to observe their behaviour within the bigger picture of their environment, allowing them to become aware of different health behaviours, and the effect of their surroundings on these behaviours.
“I believe that the BigO system can help children to improve their diet” – Boy (14 years old), Greece
Based on how much information they collect, students can go from an apprentice citizen scientist, to a bronze, silver or even gold medal citizen scientist. Depending on the school preferences, students can earn a real medal or diploma for their efforts.
“I think that the medal award system encouraged a lot of students to use the app more” – Boy (15 years old), Sweden
Schools can participate as a whole and incorporate BigO into their lesson program. In addition, single classrooms can also participate. At this moment, Ellinogermaniki Agogi in Pallini, Greece, Ekpaideftiria N. Mpakogianni in Lárissa, Greece, multiple primary schools in Thessaloniki, Greece, the Internationella Engelska Gymnasiet in Stockholm, Sweden, the NTI Gymnasiet in Uppsala, Sweden, the St. Mary’s Holy Faith Secondary School in Dublin, Ireland, Stratford College in Dublin, Ireland and Blackrock College in Dublin, Ireland are actively participating in BigO and are incorporating BigO into their lessons.
As an example, different groups of Swedish students visited different parts of Stockholm to photograph all food-related or general advertisements. They could then compare, for example, the percentage of fast food advertisements between different neighbourhoods. After the school participation or the lessons in which BigO was incorporated are finished, students can make the decision to remain a citizen scientist and keep participating for however long they like.
Students can only participate with the informed consent of their parents or guardians, and all data that is sent from the app to the server is anonymised and encrypted.
Would you like to know more about the BigO project or how your school could join?
BigO never collects directly identifiable patient information (e.g. names, birthdays) and uses automatically generated study-identifications (such as patient.user.001). Data that is collected is sent to the BigO server after removing irrelevant data in the smartphone. Sent data is anonymised and encrypted. Data is stored exclusively in European data centres and complies with the EU Directive 95/46/EC and the newer EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).