HEALTH(e) Living

Tips and Resources to Promote Healthy Living Among Students

The following educational newsletter describes four topics for promoting healthy lifestyles for students in school:

  1. Educators as Role Models
  2. Media Literacy for Students
  3. Eating Healthy with MyPlate
  4. Physical Activity & Academic Achievement

Educators as Role Models

Although an educator's goal is to help students learn in school, educators have the opportunity everyday to help students learn to live a healthy life, too. Students of all ages look for role models in their lives and teachers may become a powerful influence to them, possibly without even realizing it. As Nutrition Tools for Schools notes, if students see school staff eating healthy, enjoying physical activity or expressing positive body images, they are more likely to do the same. Integrating some of these small steps in the school setting can leave lasting impressions.

Tips for your classroom:

  • Interact with students while on lunch duty and discuss what students are eating.
  • Model healthy eating in class by bringing healthy snacks.
  • Keep a bottle of water on your desk throughout the day.
  • Encourage students to bring healthy snacks and drink water during the day.
  • Share stories about ways you stay fit with students.
  • Try to be well rested and get enough sleep at night.
  • Set goals and discuss your journey reaching them.
  • Create a healthy New Year's Resolution for 2016.
  • Remind students that mistakes are okay, we are human.
  • It is impossible to be perfect.
  • Everyday is a fresh start.
  • Discuss different ways to manage stress.
  • Allow students to see you exercise with your colleagues.
  • Plan fun and physical games involving students and faculty.
  • Plan an active class field trip.

Looking to learn about more ways to implement small, healthy changes in your school? Follow this link to read about Michigan's Nutrition Standards and weekly suggestions!

Check out my Healthy Role Model Pinterest Board below:

(students could even make their own)

Media Literacy for Students

So what exactly is media literacy?

According to the Aspen Media Literacy Leadership Institute, media literacy is defined as, "the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms". Students view media throughout the day in forms such as advertisements on their phones, computers or when watching television commercials. Students are exposed to media when reading a magazine, food label, or using social media.

In fact, as technology continues to become more accessible for young adults, their level of exposure increases. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, "On average, 8-18 year-olds devote seven hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media in a typical day – more than 53 hours a week. And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multi-tasking’, they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those seven and a half hours."

Media advertisements contain stereotypical and subliminal messages, and use complex persuasive techniques to sell their products. What young adults don't realize is that companies may not have their best interests in mind. Young adults can be easily persuaded if they are unaware there is always an untold story in advertisements. Media literacy education is all about uncovering the truth in the media and being able to analyze the information provided to make an informed (and not persuaded) decision.

But what if students argue they buy what they like? Have they considered why they like it? Most people may not know there are food scientists that are purposefully trying to make junk food more addicting! The New York Times Article called, The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food provides a detailed insight into a fascinating topic if you would like to read it to learn more!

The following video is really amazing, especially for the stereotypes about girls.

Creating critical thinkers through media literacy: Andrea Quijada at TEDxABQED
Resources for the Classroom:

  • Food Fight is a non-profit organization with the goal of bringing awareness about food to school staff, parents and students. Check it out to learn more!

  • Mass Media Literacy is a great resource to learn how to get involved at the state level for Massachusetts, as well as access to other informational websites.

  • Media Literacy Now is another source to get involved promoting media literacy in your classroom with materials, ways to take action as well as links to many other resources.

Interested in reading more about my thoughts on the importance of media literacy in schools? Click here to read my Op-Ed, entitled "The Dangers of Media Illiteracy".

This is a topic that students WANT to learn about! Just listen to what they have to say by watching the video below.

8. High School Students Speak about Media Literacy
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Eating Healthy with MyPlate

Remember the Food Pyramid? It has been UPDATED to a more visual representation of food portions in MyPlate.

Let's start with this quick, summarizing video!

Choose My Plate Dietary Guidelines
What greater gift can we give our students than the knowledge on how to lead a healthy life?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designed a new website called to help inform Americans of all ages about the new dietary recommendations that came out in 2010. Although there are still many similarities to past USDA suggestions, there have been some slight enhancements that have we discussed throughout our graduate class this semester. These main points reflect the newest scientific research on healthful eating.

  • Limit saturated fats and sodium.
  • Limit added sugars.
  • Reduce empty calories and high calorie solid fats (aka SOFAS).
  • There are now 5 categories of vegetables based on their nutrient density: (dark green vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, starchy vegetables and other)
  • About half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.
  • The grain group is made of 2 categories: refined and whole grains. At least half of the grains consumed should be whole grains to increase nutrients and fiber.

What makes ChooseMyPlate such an exciting new resource for adults and youth?

The innovatively designed website allows the viewer to effortlessly glide through the food groups, grasp lots of information in easy to read charts, and even provides support for setting healthy goals!

Here are a few lesson plan ideas using MyPlate from How to Teach Nutrition to Kids, by Connie Evers:

1. First, explore the link here to see all the resources that are offered online!

2. Have students color in or draw their favorite foods in the appropriate food groups.

3. Students can create a menu that meets the required servings of the 5 food groups.

4. Students can record their meals for a day or two and see if they are getting the right amount of servings.

5. Draw a vegetarian MyPlate, considering proteins and dairy.

6. Research the nutrients that each food group contains and discuss the benefits for the body.

For the teachers- Feeling like you are ready to start eating healthier yourself?

Visit the link below for a funny and helpful take on how to get started.

Physical Activity and Academic Achievement

Eating a balanced diet is only a part of the whole HEALTHe picture!

As students' time using technology increases, less time is spent outdoors or moving around after school. Basch (2010) explains that this has lead to an increase in overweight and obese children in the United States, now reaching epidemic levels. Furthermore, a greater decline in physical activity is present in minority students and girls, especially as they get older. The research shows that students who participate in physical activities experience dramatic and positive effects on academic achievement and overall health (Basch, 2010). There are many benefits for physical activity including:

  • reducing stress and depression
  • lowering anxiety before a big test or assignment
  • improves mood and self-esteem
  • strengthens heart muscles
  • increases overall muscle strength and flexibility
  • reduces obesity and risks for other diseases
  • balances daily calorie intake
  • releases "extra" energy
  • invigorating the body
  • increasing overall body energy
  • increases quality of sleep

Just over a year ago I was trained in the Developmental Designs approach to the classroom. During my training it was made very clear that middle school students need movement breaks throughout the day to be successful. At this point in a 6th grader's developmental stage, movement is a key ingredient. In the Training Resource Book further explains, "There's a constant appetite for movement, which manifests itself in games and sports, but also in fidgeting and restlessness" (p. 11). This quote highlights that young middle school students thrive with physical activities and incorporating movement into the classroom is developmentally appropriate for 6th graders. Students will be more engaged in learning if they are given opportunities that fulfill their needs.

Another benefit of the Development Design's classroom approach is the incorporation of the "Power of Play". Students can build social, emotional and academic skills while also playing games like, Where the Cold Wind Blows. What a great way to start the day!

Even First Lady Michelle Obama has made increasing physical activity to 1 hour a day her mission for today's generation of youth by starting the Let's Move! nationwide campaign. You can visit it at The website's page called "Active Schools" also supports the same findings that students who are more active experience greater success in school, concentrate better and have less absences and behavior issues during the day.

The last video explains the science behind how increasing physical activity can lead to academic success!

The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning through Movement | Michael Kuczala | TEDxAshburn


Basch, C. E. (2010). Healthier Students are Better Learners: A Missing Link in School Reforms to Close the Achievement Gap.

Evers, C. (2012). How to Teach Nutrition to Kids. Oregon: 24 Carrot Press.

The Origins Program. (2014). Developmental Designs 1: Resource Book. Minnesota.

Nutrition Tools for Schools

The Center for Media Literacy

Mass Media Literacy Kaiser Family Foundation Quote

I look forward to your feedback about what you learned!

Colleague Responses

Monica CampoBasso, Math Teacher

Hi there! This is fabulous, and is setting my mind abuzz! What a great way to personalize relationships with our kids. This can also tie into the wellness policy districtwide.

I love the Pinterest Board. We could all post and exchange ideas for hikes, etc., and recipes for lunches and snack ideas. It could also serve as a place for students with allergies to explain and/or vent which could be very enlightening to other students, and build some empathy and support at the same time.

I've had some great conversations with kids about my FitBit. We could actually form fitness groups to challnege each other as a staff, and could enlist the support of kids as well!

Naturally...this could all be tied into Math in one way or another!

Kaitlyn Van Buskirk, Art Teacher

This looks great! The videos, links and pinterest board are all excellent resources. I was thinking that the media literacy topic would be great to incorporate into the Advisory Program. I was also thinking it could be something I could incorporate into an art project!

Erin Denehy, Health Teacher

This is a great informational piece! I found it very helpful and will use many of the tools you referenced as resources :)!

Here are a few key takeways for me:

- As educators, we not only have a responsibility to educate our students on subject matter, we also have the obligation to set examples for good behavior to promote a healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise, decision making, etc.). I enjoyed reading your tips for a healthy classroom. Stress is something that is key, but often overlooked in my opinion.

- We just finished an entire leson on adverising and media influences in 6th grade. We discussed the goal of advertising (influencing the consumer to buy products) and how this can often contain messages and nformation that may be deceptive. We analyzed ads in class and also discussed the influence of tobacco and alcohol advertising in the media. We are now discussing violence in the media and how it may influence behaviors and opinions.

- I believe proper nutrition is the foundation for lifelong health. I could not agree more with your key points and we will also be using MyPlate as a resource in healh class.

Amy Styles, ELA Teacher

I loved the part about critical thinking in media literacy ... I got my BS degree in Marketing and realized marketing used the tools of persuasion to influence consumers. :)

Jaime Tucker, Phyiscal Education Teacher and Head Football Coach for Nashoba HS

That blog was great, quick and easy to read info for students and kids. I think my two favorite/most interesting parts were modeling behavior for students, I think that is something that is underrated. I also like the idea of relating to the students in this fashion and talking about other aspects besides just academics (something I try almost daily).

The second was also learning about the media literacy section, I think students can be very easily swayed by advertising, especially with food and that could be an issue like you said. Also I always discuss the positives of movement and physical activity with kids, I think it's something that could help even more kids than it does now.

About Monika Bokon

Monika Bokon is a middle school science teacher in the Nashoba Regional School District in Stow, Massachusetts. She is currently enrolled in the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Online Graduate program in Curriculum and Instruction for Science Educators.