Nutrition in the classroom, what’s the connection?

Creating lifelong learners is the mission of schools and nutrition is relevant for a lifetime.

Nutrition in the classroom may have you asking, what’s the connection? Kids don’t think that way though. They are eager to learn, experience and share knowledge about food groups and as they get older, reading food labels. “Healthy choices” is a real world topic and relatable to kids. When they are engaged in the why of what makes a food choice healthier, they are empowered to choose for themselves and not because someone “said so.”

Health and nutrition learning objectives are crucial for building strong learners so that there are national standards as well as statewide standards for each grade level. Michigan State University Extension partners with schools, camps, Early Headstart and Headstart, preschools and others similar, to assist educators in reaching their content goals. Through partnership, parent resources, and community efforts, children receive reinforcement for healthy choices and begin putting healthy eating habits in place that will last a lifetime.

This is what kids in Northern Michigan had to say about their experiences with nutrition in the classroom:

  • Trying new foods is fun

Reading, creating and sampling recipes. “Cooking isn’t so hard if you can read a recipe,” said high school alternative education junior, who is beginning to build confidence and life skills.

Example: “I want to make this!”

  • Ask questions and develop an interest

Example: “I never knew that…”

“Brown cows do to give chocolate milk,” insisted a headstart student.

  • Make connections to experiences

Example: “My mom/grandma…”

  • Make connections to academics

Example: “I know another book that…”

Fractions, multiplying/dividing or group counting (by two, four, etc.). Converting sugar or fat grams to teaspoons can be child’s play with the ratio four to one. In early elementary grades instructors count by four’s, in upper elementary and middle school mental math facts are challenged with multiplication and division.

  • Results: Kids do make changes!

Example: “I choose a different snack.”

“I drink more water since you talked to us about ‘thinking our drink’.”

Creating lifelong learners is the mission of schools and nutrition is relevant for a lifetime—it’s a great pairing which results show that as well. Children participating in nutrition education from MSU Extension are more likely to read the nutrition information on food labels, chose a healthy snack when they have the choice, increase in choosing foods from all five food groups, consume fruits or vegetables. Educators, school administrators and boards along with many communities statewide can say, “Nutrition in the classroom—I know why!”

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