Nutrition and Physical Education Activities in the Classroom
You can promote health and wellness using nutrition activities and lessons.
By Andrea Ferrero
At home, and in our classrooms, students are developing eating and fitness habits that will follow them into their teen and adult years. Knowing the importance of a healthy lifestyle, teachers can fit in nutrition and fitness topics into daily lessons to give students information, and promote positive habits and attitudes toward eating healthy and engaging in physical activity.
After discussing how eating healthy foods and drinking water can increase brain activity and promote overall health and wellness, students can decorate and personalize their own water bottle for use in the classroom. These bottles can be used as learning tools when discussing volume, units of measure and discussing recycling and reusing with students. There are many learning extensions you can make as well. My students loved finding out the different names for water, and the important role it plays in countries around the globe.
Including a snack time in the morning or afternoon (before and after lunch) can eliminate a slump in energy and performance. When I taught second grade, I found that my students were far more engaged and excited about our academic endeavors when they had the chance to munch on carrots or crackers. This snack time typically lasted 10 minutes and I allowed students time to move around and talk to peers. I've managed snacks different ways. I have allowed students to bring in their own snacks, had parents donate snacks, used part of the funds from fundraisers to buy snacks, and used fresh produce from a class garden. I found each way worked well as long as students and parents were informed of the reason for a snack period, and the types of food that were acceptable.
After lunch, or during if I was on lunch duty, my students and I would discuss which of the food groups were represented in what they ate. Using student-prompted ideas, we began charting our lunch by food groups and serving size (both categories were suggested by students). Through this daily discussion of healthy food, I found that students were empowered to make better food choices for themselves. It also allowed students to move away from the concept of "bad" foods that they shouldn't eat, and towards the idea of balanced food choices. Many children, even from a young age, will tell you candy is not good for them, yet they still hoard candy when they can. I was happy to see, that over time, my second graders stopped identifying food as "bad", but rather as a treat to be eaten occasionally, and consumed sparingly.
With all the extra energy students gained from healthy eating, it was a good idea to have them take time to stretch and complete brief exercises in class. We also played games. One of my second graders favorite games was inspired by the frequent power outages in our older building. When the lights went out, we would quietly stand, I would turn on soft music from a battery powered radio, and students would enjoy the museum at night game. While the music played, the "statues" would silently drift around the room changing poses and and positions, but when the music stopped, they had to return to stone. What follows are more lessons and activities you can use to teach students about health and nutrition.
Nutrition and Physical Activity Lesson Plans:
Students read and discuss a variety of food labels to discover what information can be found on a label. After building familiarity with the information available on labels, and the correlation to dietary needs, students craft a letter to a food production company.
Students keep activity journals of their exercise choices for a period of two weeks. They then compare different physical activities, and finish by looking at what a healthy amount of exercise would be for them.
Students examine and collect data on a variety of foods to explore the nutritional components of a healthy diet. Then they apply the information they find to real life situations, such as creating a food plan.