American Heart Month is an excellent opportunity to educate youth about heart disease and the preventative steps they can take to avoid it. Hopefully this February teachers will be incorporating it into their lesson plans. I have always felt that if you can get kids excited about nutrition, fitness, and a healthy lifestyle then there is a good chance that they will carry these healthy habits into adulthood and eliminate the need to visit a doctor for obesity related illnesses. This in turn could reduce the amount of health care expenses an insurance premiums.
As a graduate with a degree in Nutritional Sciences I feel very strongly about educating as many people as possible about a healthy lifestyle. The personal trainer in me wants to see as many people as possible take the knowledge they have acquired and actually use it and become more active. I feel that it is important for educators in schools to incorporate both the learning part and the getting active part, because these two key points complement each other. P.E. teachers shouldn’t be the only ones trying to get this message across to students. This topic is perfect for health classes and science classes too.
My first lesson plan is actually one I used with a middle school health class I taught. In class we watched the movie Super Size Me, which shows the ill effects that can happen from consuming fast food on a regular basis. After finishing the movie and discussing it the kids were assigned to keep a food journal for 1 week. During classes through out the week we discussed the basics of nutrition such as calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, obesity, and conditions that occur from obesity. The following week the kids took 3 days from their food journal and analyzed how much food they were consuming. This is a really great activity that gets kids excited about health and makes them aware of what they are eating.
The second lesson plan is one that could run for the entire month. Each student would need to get a pedometer and they would keep track of their steps for 1 month. You could have them make a chart with their name on it and place it on the wall and each day they would record their steps. You could set goal levels that the students would try to achieve. Since it is recommended that you get 10,000 steps a day the bottom level goal could be 30,000 steps for the month. From here you could decide what the upper levels would be. I guarantee that the kids would really find this one interesting as they try to reach their goal. On the final day of the month you could throw a party as a reward for participating, where the students are allowed to bring in healthy snacks.
The final lesson plan is a poster discussion group project. You would need to split your class up into groups of 3 and assign them a topic such as heart disease, heart attack, obesity, etc. Each group would make a poster with as much information on the topic (for a presentation). You would then invite other classes in and each group would get up and give a speech on their topic. You could even have the students go down to the upper elementary grades, such as 4th or 5th grade to give their presentations. This project would help them understand the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle as well as work on their public speaking skills.
These are just a few ideas to give students a basic understanding and appreciation of American Heart Month. Any one of them would be good and if you have your own ideas that are similar that would be great too. The important thing is to get the students involved.