School systems are on the hunt for a sustainable wellness solution for their students and faculty. Obesity, in particular, childhood obesity, has become an increasing epidemic facing our nation. Although childhood obesity does not begin in the schools, children spend the majority of their time there, providing schools a unique opportunity to reverse this unhealthy trend.
During the school year, classrooms essentially serve as a child’s “home away from home”—a place where they spend the day learning, playing and developing; making classrooms a prime environment to create healthy habits and combat the obesity epidemic.
|4 Steps to a Healthier Classroom:|
|1. Overhaul the classroom's reward system|
|2. Institute a healthy snack policy|
|3. Get moving during academic lessons|
|4. Establish "energizer" breaks|
Although it may not be popular with students, overhauling the classroom’s reward system is a smart way to control your classroom’s health. Rewarding students with candy or food is of zero benefit to their overall health. Not only is it sending the wrong message to children by rewarding positive behavior with junk food, but it's also undermining their health.
Non-food reward ideas:
- Extra recess time
- Homework pass
- Sit with friends for 1 day
- Line leader
- Teacher’s assistant (pass out/collect homework, office deliveries, etc)
- Option to have first dibs on 1 piece of recess equipment
- “Free choice” at end of day
- Lunch in classroom with teacher and 2 friends
- Classroom/reading time/activity in a special location (outdoors, beanbag, teacher’s desk, etc)
Institute a healthy snack policy
Creating a classroom rule about snacks is another way to create a healthier classroom. Healthy snacks will provide students with the proper nutrition and energy needed throughout the school day and in-between meals. If appropriate, allow students to help create “healthy snack rules”. Have students define what constitutes a healthy snack (make sure it actually does) and identify healthy snack ideas. Afterwards, have students pledge to follow the healthy snack rules!
Healthy snack ideas:
- Raw veggies with low-fat dip
- Whole wheat crackers and hummus
- Greek yogurt
- Peanut butter and celery
Get moving during academic lessons
Another way to create a healthier classroom is to literally move more! Engage students with physically active lessons—not only will students be excited to participate, but also be better focused and unconsciously building healthy habits!
Incorporate physical activity into academic lessons:
- Have students stand while reading
- Have students demonstrate math equations with physical movements (4*4=16à 4 push-ups * 4 sit-ups= 16 jumping jacks)
- Allow students to sit on exercise balls instead of chairs (if exercise balls are limited, reward 1 student with option to sit on ball)
- Instead of raising hand to participate, have students stand up quietly
- Spelling Bee—assemble students into group. Have students use their bodies to spell out words!
An energy break is a quick physical and mental break from academic lessons; students stand beside their desks and engage in simple exercises. Energy breaks are designed to boost lagging energy and concentration levels through physical activity. At only 5 minutes in length, energy breaks are a fun, simple way to get students moving more in the classroom! Energy breaks can be tailored to your classroom’s individual needs—is your class fidgety leading up to lunch? Schedule your energy break then! Do your students’ eyes begin to glaze over late afternoon? Have students complete an energy break then!
With these 4 simple steps, you’ll be well on your way to creating a healthier classroom! Make these small changes in your classroom and monitor the big changes in your students’ health! Through these 4 steps, you have the opportunity to instill healthy habits in your students at a young age and promote healthy lifestyles for the future!