“People want to do good, but they need help”
As teachers, we ourselves take on the position of role models for the young minds that look up to us every single day. Not only during the school day, but our lifestyle choices are reflected in every classroom. As more and more attention is drawn to the epidemic plaguing our nation, obesity, knowledge begins in the classroom where we can show and teach our students how to lead healthy, active and happy lives. After witnessing her sister die far too soon carrying 260 lbs on her 4′ 11” frame, Linda Fondren decided to make a change in her town of Vicksburg, Mississippi (yes, that’s right, the place that currently holds the first place title for ‘fattest state’). Rather than preach and scold her overweight community, Fondren embraced the possibilities.
She started a journey just like any other: one step at a time, literally.
Fondren and her other sister opened an all-female gym entitled Shape Up Sisters in 2006. Having been a giant success, Fondren moved to bigger (and more fit) things, creating a movement across her town fittingly titled Shape Up Vicksburg. Fondren founded her movement in the idea of convenience. It’s not that people don’t want to change, they just needs the tools accessible to them to do so. Thus, weight-in stations were at local Wal-Marts and free nutrition classes were offered across the city.
Healthy routines should start early. Children should be encouraged to move every day and see healthy eating as fuel for their active lifestyles. Students should take an active role in their health and, as teachers, we can provide them with the opportunities and let them know just exactly how important it is, as Fondren notes, to “take care of yourself first”.
Healthy eating habits start at the roots. That is, the roots of a local garden. Dedicate a small area of land on the playground to growing favorite fruits and vegetables. Now is the time to present unique foods that many children shy away from. Butternut squash? Why not. Yellow pepper? No harm in trying. Have students bring in their favorite healthy recipes and create a classroom cookbook, through a little writing exercise in there while you’re at it.
Now, the other half of the equation. Take advantage of a beautiful day and have a science lesson on the nature trail while on a hike around the school. Or, encourage students to keep track of their activity outside of class and discuss ways to incorporate even more movement into their days. Stay on top of community events and post flyers for local fundraiser walks/runs and express the importance of exercising for a great cause.
How can you demonstrate your own healthy habits during the school day?
Although many healthy routines begin at home, how can they be addressed (and changed) in the eight hours they are at school?
It’s important that children see the true benefits of a healthy lifestyle. It is not about appearances and comparisons to others, but allowing yourself to be the best that you can be with all the enthusiasm, energy and the motivation necessary. So, enjoy a cup of running, a tablespoon of nutrients and a dash of well-being and relish (veggie relish, that is) in your new healthy ways!