TimeWise Description

Home Summary of Results Curriculum Description

TimeWise: Taking Charge of Leisure Time (Caldwell, 2004) is a curriculum for middle school students that teaches youth how to use their free time in healthy ways. It has been published by ETR Associates and has been evaluated through funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to determine if it helped mitigate the initiation of substance use. TimeWise is a general, positive youth development program that can be used to promote healthy leisure in general, and in particular to promote physically active and healthy leisure and decrease unhealthy leisure behavior. TimeWise has also been used successfully by a school counselor for fourth grade students and is currently being used and evaluated in the Harrisburg City Schools as part of their Safe Schools Healthy Students initiative.

The TimeWise: Taking Charge of Leisure Time project was initially evaluated by a three year, quasi-experimental design study. Compared with other approaches to substance use prevention, TimeWise did not teach adolescents about specific substances and their effects. Instead, the premise of TimeWise is that youth need help in learning how (a) to develop healthy interests and (b) to take personal responsibility for initiating positive leisure activities (e.g., Silbereisen & Eyferth, 1986; Silbereisen & Todt, 1994). TimeWise promotes positive youth development by helping students engage in leisure in healthy ways.  

The initial TimeWise study followed one cohort of early adolescents for three years. In the first year (grade seven, students received six core lessons, lasting about 50 minutes each. This was the most intensive period of the program, which was designed to build a firm base in the language and skills offered in the program that the students could then implement. Each lesson built on the next, and topics were often revisited in multiple places in the curriculum (e.g., self-determination and interest development). The first year curriculum was comprised of six lessons: (a) self-awareness of time use and the benefits associated with leisure activities, (b) reasons for participating in free time activities, (c) recognizing personal interests and managing boredom, (d) the active pursuit of meaningful activity (decision making and planning) and overcoming constraints, (e) managing free time for balance and variety,  and (f) integration of concepts. In each of the second and third years (grades eight and nine), students received three booster sessions of TimeWise.

To evaluate TimeWise, we conducted an efficacy trial with nine schools in rural central Pennsylvania. The primary objective of this efficacy trial was to compare TimeWise to a no-treatment comparison group. Of the nine schools recruited to participate, four were randomly assigned to the experimental group and five to the comparison group. The schools were in relatively poor, small (i.e., less than 1,000 students) districts. In each school, approximately 1/3 of the students received free or reduced price lunches.

Baseline data were collected in September and October 2000 after gaining human subjects approval from Penn State and parental consent was obtained. A team of trained university students followed a strict protocol and distributed questionnaires that participants self-administered in their classrooms, typically during homeroom. In order to help students feel comfortable filling out questions on sensitive material (i.e., substance use), teachers were not present during the administration of the questionnaire. No students refused to participate during data collection, and they took between 20 and 40 minutes to complete the questionnaires. The core TimeWise lessons were given in the spring of 2001, with the booster sessions in springs of 2002 and 2003. Posttest data were collected in the springs of 2001, 2002, and 2003. There were between three and six weeks between the end of each TimeWise program and administration of all questionnaires.  


We received parental permission from and collected data on between 51% and 88% of all grade seven students in each of nine schools (the average was 63%). Of the 634 seventh grade students at baseline (fall 2000) who received parental permission and agreed to participate in the study, 315 were female (49.7%). Posttest data were collected on students in the springs of 2001, 2002, and 2003. The final N = 475, which represented 75% of the original participants. Loss of participants primarily was due to students moving, as well as students who were missing at the time of data collection. Three separate efforts (through the schools) were made to enable the missing students to complete the posttests. After failing to contact the student after three follow-up contacts, we ceased trying. 

At baseline, ninety-five percent of all students were European-American. The areas where the participating schools were located were rural, as indicated by students’ responses about where they lived; 30.4% reported living in a rural area, 29.0% lived in a neighborhood but not “in town,” and 25.2% lived in a small town. Only 6.9% reported living on a farm. (In the school districts served by this study there are no towns in excess of 2,500 people.) Using the means students used to buy lunch as a proxy measure for socio-economic status, 56.7% of students reported buying lunch at full price, 20.8% received a free lunch, and 11.3% were eligible for reduced price lunches. About 4.5% of students either brought lunch from home, or went home for lunch. These results suggest that about a third of the students came from a lower socio-economic background.

To access a paper written about the Free Time Motivation Scale for Adolescents (Baldwin & Caldwell, 2003) developed from this project (Caldwell, Baldwin, Walls, & Smith, 2004), click here. To view a paper about the outcomes associated with the first year, click here. To view the final report submitted to NIDA, click here. This report will detail the theory behind TimeWise as well as results of the main study and sub-studies. Click on the "summary of results" button at the top of this page to see a brief description of the outcomes.