Healthy Students

Information on how to improve your students' health

Educators as Role Models

Healthier students are better learners. Studies show there is a correlation between education, academic success, student learning, and health. With this correlation, educators can help improve students' health. One way educators can increase a student's health is by modeling a healthy lifestyle. Some examples for modeling healthy behaviors from the Michigan Nutrition Standards (2012):

  • Eat a piece of fruit in front of students every day as a snack.
  • Wash your hands often, especially before eating and let students see you washing your hands.
  • Buddy up with another staff member and walk through the school hallways or outside, even if it just for 10 minutes.
  • Suggest a healthy fundraiser.
  • Make a healthy New Year's resolution as a class and post for everyone to see.
  • Take two weeks off for holiday break. Enjoy and take care of yourself.
  • Drink water in front of your students.
  • Put up reminders for students to encourage them to eat breakfast every day.

Hunger in Children

One in seven Americans struggled with hunger in 2013, including 15.7 million children, which was 21.4 percent of all children. (Food Research and Action Center, 2010).

A hungry child will have a harder time focusing in class and will be more likely to have absences, due to poor nutrition.

Children of the Recession - CBS Video (Doane, 2010).

Vermont's Hunger Free programs help to feed students by providing various programs through 3SquaresVT (formerly the food stamp program). Vermont helps schools to expand their school lunches and breakfasts, and works with community groups to provide after school meals and snacks, and summer meals. (Parisi)

Big image

Physical Activity

As Evers (2012) states, "Fit Kids are Smarter Kids" because "Children who are active feel better, have more energy and even learn more easily than their sedentary peers" (p. 169).

Physical Activity Supports Learning

  • improves focus and concentration
  • improves health and minimizes absences
  • decreases anxiety and depression before tests and assignments

Activity breaks can improve academic behavior, so take short and fun activity breaks during class. One example is the ten-second shake out - shake right arm for 10 seconds, left arm for 10 sec, right leg, and then left leg each for 10 seconds.

Media & Health Literacy

As Nestle (2007) states, "Marketers will do whatever that can to encourage even the youngest children to ask for advertised products in the hope of enticing young people to become lifetime consumers" (p. 193).

Students need to understand how advertisers promote their product, and trick them into wanting to drink or eat their product, leading them to unhealthy behaviors. Soft drinks and snacks are marketed directly in schools with contracts with companies to provide their products. Schools and the companies earn money, while students are hurt with the promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle (Nestle, 2007). Students can be taught to dissect an advertisement and learn how companies cater to them (Wallace, 2011). In Wallace's (2011), the teacher, Ms. Tonda, has seen changes for the better in students' behavior after lessons about health eating and companies' advertising, including switching to drinking water.


Our biology team selected our low socioeconomic students as a group to focus on this year. This information helped to open my eyes about some of the issues we will face, and possible ways we can help to combat their hunger. - Mary G., biology teacher

After reading the information about physical activity, I decided to try to add some specific movement activities in my classes. I teach freshman and so many of them seem antsy, but after trying some different activities like the ten-second shake out and ones I found online, like chair aerobics, and letting the students bust a move to a old time song, Twist, I found the students behaved better and were better able to focus on the lesson. - Erin B., biology teacher

I did not realize how many students go hungry every year. Between the stats Ruth provided and the information we have gathered about our low socioeconomic students, I am floored by how many of them go hungry. I can understand why a student who is hungry could have issues in the classroom. - Morgan M., biology teacher

I never thought of myself as role model for my students on healthy eating. Since I don't eat lunch with the students and I don't eat in front of my students, as I don't allow food in my room, I haven't even thought of how I could role model. I could drink water, and talk to my students about what they are eating. - Donna B., biology teacher

As an assistant principal, I don't have any say in the contract with have with our vending company, yet, the information about media makes me think twice about our relationship with a company. Maybe, we would be better to not have the contract, but I am not sure if that is possible right now, because we need every bit of money we can get. I do appreciate the information on role modeling, hunger, and physical activity. I can share this information with other teachers as ways they may be able to help improve our students' lives. - Chris H., assistant principal


California After School Resource Center. (n.d.). Learning in motion training [PDF document]. Retrieved from California After School Resource Center website:

Doane, S. (Reporter). (2010, May 19). Childhood hunger in America. CBS evening news. Retrieved from

Evers, C. L. (2012). How to teach nutrition to kids. Portland, OR: 24 Carrot Press.

Food Research and Action Center. (2010). Hunger and poverty. Retrieved from

Michigan Nutrition Standards. (2012). Weekly ways school staff can be healthy role models. Retrieved from

Nestle, M. (2007). Food Politics: How the food industry influences nutrition, and health. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Parisi, M. (n.d.). Hunger Free Vermont. Retrieved from

Wallace, H. (2011, October 26). In high schools, a critical lens on food. The New York Times, p. A26.

Ruth Zumwalt

HealthE Project for Healthy Lifestyles

University of Massachusetts @ Lowell