A Guide to Healthy Classrooms
Healthy Classrooms and Schools: What You Need to Know
Children spend a large portion of their time at school, here are some ways that both parents and teachers can help create healthier classrooms, schools, and children.
1. Learn the status of your school district's wellness policy by contacting your district office.
2. Try to work with the school district to find a way for you and other parents to get involved in any wellness activities.
1. Physical Activity and Children
Exercise Fights Anxiety, Depression, Fatigue and Fat
Studies show that when children's exercise and fitness needs are met they learn and achieve more.
Given the growing rates of obesity and the link between physical activity and academic performance, parents and schools must work together to make quality daily physical education a priority in schools.
Unfortunately, the trend is that children are becoming less physically active:
1. In 1969, 42 percent of children ages 5 to 18 walked or biked to school; in 2001, only 16 percent did.
2. Almost all elementary schools schedule some form of physical education, but only 17 to 22 percent provide it on a daily basis.
3. Only one-third of children, grades 9 to 12 are getting the recommended levels of physical activity. Daily participation in high school physical education classes dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2005.
4. In 2005, more than one-third of high school kids watched three or more hours of television
This inactivity is not only harming our children's health, it is affecting our children's academic success as well.
5. Studies show that providing more time for physical activity (by reducing class time for academics) can lead to improved test scores, particularly in math.
Physical activity programs have also been linked to stronger academic achievement, increased concentration, and improved reading and writing test scores.
6. Children who have daily physical education classes tend to have better attendance and have a more positive attitude about school.
Adapted in part, with permission, from Action for Healthy Kids, "Building the Argument: The Need for Physical Education and Physical Activity in Our Schools," www.ActionForHealthyKids.org.
Designed to help prospective teachers, current teachers and parents make positive impressions in the lives of young people, Promoting Health and Emotional Well-Being in Your Classroom.
Up-to-date and comprehensive coverage of the critical issues impacting todays youth. The text provides insightful background, content, and strategies for improving the emotional well-being and health of students and offers up-to-date comprehensive coverage of many issues that today's teachers must be prepared to handle.
How Parents Can Encourage Daily Exercise
Walk or Bike to School
Lead a "walking school bus"- By walking groups of students to school, on a rotating basis with other parents, you can help your kids increase their daily physical activity.
- Launch your program on "Walk to School Day" (observed in October).
For more information about this program, visit www.walktoschool.org.
2. Nutrition and Children
Proper nutrition is key to leading a healthy life, and healthy eating habits are best formed during childhood.
Teachers and parents can teach children good eating habits by being positive role models in their own choices and by explaining to their children the importance of a balanced diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid.com, for Kids, can be a useful resource for talking to kids about how to choose healthy options from each food group.
Recommended Daily Portions.
A child's age, gender, and activity level, all determine how much they need to eat every day to stay healthy. Boys and girls grow at different rates and thus may each need different total daily calories, even at the same age.
For childrens food intake recommendations visit www.mypyramid.gov.
How Parents and Teachers Can Encourage Better Nutrition
Healthy Snack Ideas
Serving healthy snacks to our children is important to providing good nutrition for growth and development, supporting lifelong healthy eating habits, and preventing diseases, like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Snacks are a bigger part of kids' diets than in the past, and can make positive or negative contributions to kids' diets- depending on the choices we offer.
Below are ideas of healthy drinks and snacks to serve to children.
1. Fruits and vegetables: Almost all of the snacks served to children should be fruits or vegetables. Do taste tests, or let kids choose (or vote for) new fruits and vegetables to try. Fruit can be served whole, sliced, cut in half, cubed, or in wedges. Canned, frozen, and dried fruits are easy and usually need little preparation.
Healthy options include fresh fruits and vegetables; frozen fruit; applesauce; fruit cups or canned fruit (in juice or light syrup); dried fruit and fruit leathers (without added sugars); fruit salad; fruit juice popsicles; and homemade smoothies.
Vegetables can be served with dips like hummus, bean dip, or salad dressing; in salads; or as veggie pockets in whole wheat pita bread.
2. Healthy grains (whole grains that are low in fats and sugars): Serve mostly whole grains, which provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains do. (Whole wheat should be the first ingredient listed in the label.)
Healthy whole grain options can include English muffins, pitas, tortillas; breakfast cereal; crackers; rice cakes; popcorn; tortilla chips; granola; cereal bars; breadsticks; or flatbreads. Refined grains, such as pretzels and goldfish, should not be everyday offerings.
Be sure to read nutrition labels to pick options that are low in sugars, saturated fat, and transfat.
3. Low-fat dairy foods: To protect children's bones and hearts, make sure all dairy foods are low-fat or fat-free, such as one-percent milk, yogurt and low-fat pudding.
Since cheese is the number two source of heart-damaging saturated fat in children's diets, choose lower-fat cheeses, serve smaller portions, and add fruits, vegetables, or whole grain crackers.
4. Nuts and trail mix: Since nuts are high in calories, it is best to serve small portions (a small handful) and serve them along with another snack, such as fruit.
1. Water: Water should be the main drink served to kids at snack times. Water satisfies thirst without adding calories or sugars (and it is low-cost!).
2. Seltzer or sparkling water: Look for calorie-free varieties, flavored or unflavored.
3. Low-fat and fat-free milk: Milk is a terrific source of calcium and vitamin D, but it is also the number one source of heart-damaging saturated fat in children's diets.
- Choose fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) instead of whole or 2% (reduced-fat) milk.
- Soy and rice "milks" (fortified with calcium and vitamin D) also are healthy options.
3. Fruit juice: Choose only 100% fruit juice, but limit juice to no more than 6 ounces (a little less than a cup) for 1- to 6-year-olds and no more than 12 ounces (1 1/2-2 cups) for 7- to 18-year-olds.
- Avoid juice drinks, which, nutritionally, are no better than soda pop. The label should list 100% juice. Avoid drinks with sugar or high fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list.
Reprinted with permission from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, "Healthy Snacks for Children," www.cspinet.org.
3. Learn More
- MyPyramid.gov - United States Department of Agriculture - Home
Check out the MyPyramid e-Post; the newsletter for and about the MyPyramid Corporate Challenge partners. Hear what others are doing to help combat obesity using MyPyramid.
- International Walk to School in the USA
In the USA, celebrate Walk to School Day in October, 2009, and promote safe walking and bicycling throughout the year.
- Action For Healthy Kids
Action for Healthy Kids
Health Display Ideas - Red Ribbon (Drug Prevention) and More!
Teachers, watch this video with your class and discuss it with them after. Empower your students to remain tobacco free and drug free!
-Award winning TV spots
-Photos, live talk, film clips and graphics
-Printed Discussion Guide for teachers
-Emphasizes the addictiveness of nicotine
-How cigarette advertising has targeted youth
-Provides a formula for saying no, and gives clear examples
-Stresses the importance of talking about problems to others, and not isolating yourself
-Raises awareness about movie stars who make smoking look cool onscreen