Welcome back to school! Teachers all over are meeting new students, putting the finishing touches on their classrooms, and making schedules and lessons plans. Because teachers are remarkable in every way, they are also trying to improve the health of their students. Teachers everywhere are committing themselves to finding alternatives to candy rewards and sugary treats at school celebrations, and to increasing physical activity for students throughout the school day.
If you are a teacher looking for tips on how to integrate nutritious food and physical activity in your learning environment, read on for suggestions from other teachers about what practices contribute to their success:
- Send a letter home at the beginning of the school year describing your plans to teach students about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods. Let parents know that only those foods should be served for class celebrations. If your school has a policy about foods for celebrations, highlight it now with parents.
- Prepare a list of your student’s favorite fruits and vegetables and send it home to parents to give them ideas for celebration snacks.
- Be a role model for your students by talking about the fruits and vegetables and other healthy items you like to eat. Ask them what fruit or vegetable they tried in the cafeteria. The most adventurous tasters can join you for a special lunch with teacher!
- Plan to have special “parfait parties” during Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or other traditional holidays that may be celebrated in the classroom. Parfaits can be served many different ways—just vanilla yogurt, a favorite fruit or two, and a crunchy whole grain cereal. Let the students decide what fruit and cereal to include.
- Include physical activity breaks throughout the day like dancing dice, energizers, and dance-along videos. Have a special Friday extended dance party to celebrate the completion of the week or other special occasions like surviving a big test!
- Include your peers in your efforts to create a healthy learning environment by sharing ideas and successes, and discussing challenges. With more people on board, you can create a school-wide impact.
- Create or join a Wellness Team at your school to help spread the word. Teachers, parents, and students can participate in school-wide walking challenges and healthy recipe contests. The winners can plan their own healthy celebration, receive physical activity materials, or have a dance party in the gym with the principal!
Other tips are available online to help teachers create a healthier classroom for students. See below for links to some of our favorite ideas. Happy celebrating!
Celebration ideas from the Alliance for Healthier Generations
Celebration ideas from North Carolina’s Eat Smart Move More
Monthly healthy celebration ideas from CSPI net
Healthy Holiday ideas from Eat Smart Be Fit Maryland
For more healthy celebration resources, click here!
Joi Vogin, MS, CNS, LDN, Food Supplement Nutrition Education, Maryland’s SNAP-Ed Program, University of Maryland Extension