Celebrating Nutrition Educators Who Connect Learning to Life


Celebrating Nutrition Educators Who Connect Learning to Life

08, May 2017 10:47 AM

It's Teacher Appreciation Week! And while five week days alone cannot contain the appreciation and esteem we have for educators everywhere, we feel it's very important to give teachers their due.

As a nutrition education organization, Dairy Council of California holds in particularly high esteem those educators who draw upon their personal passion and conviction to share messages of healthy eating and physical activity in their classrooms. Each year, we partner with the Southern California School Nutrition Association and Buena Vista Foods to sponsor the Eat Smart 2 Be Smart Outstanding Nutrition Educator contest. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we are delighted to share the stories of this year's winning educators with you.  

Ms. Diana Dababneh, a pre-school teacher at John F. Land School in Westminster incorporates food literacy in her classroom. Her lesson submission for the contest included reading the book, “I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato” by Lauren Child. Students discussed the fruits and vegetables they have at home and drew images of their favorite fruits and vegetables from the book. 

Ms. Dababneh then provided a hands-on activity where students touched and smelled fruits and vegetables from her garden. She says, “If they don’t experience a garden, they have no idea how things grow. Give them the experience so they can see, smell and taste. Give them a visual of real fruits and vegetables.” 

In addition, Ms. Dababneh created a mock food market in the classroom, enabling students to pretend to shop for fruits and vegetables. The lesson plan integrated many academic concepts including language and literacy, dramatic play, art, science, reasoning and analysis. Dababneh states, “As they learn in class, they will begin to ask their parents for a variety of produce.” 

Lastly, she and her students begin each day with morning exercises indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather, thereby modeling both healthy food and lifestyle choices for the preschool students.  Ms. Beverlee Mathenia, Executive director of Early Education & Expanded Learning for Westminster School District says, “Diana is a true role model for her peers and is dedicated to helping her students to see the importance of healthy eating and being active.” 

Mrs. Kat Clark, 6th grade teacher at Stauffer Middle School in Downey, CA who teaches a 6-week exploratory foods class to 6th grade students. The objective of her contest submission was for students to explore healthy eating options by interpreting ingredient lists and the Nutrition Facts label on food packages. Students used the Nutrition Detectives curriculum, developed by David Katz, MD, to review food labels and determine which foods were nutritious choices. 

With this new knowledge, the students developed Food Rules for Eating Healthy: Eat from the Earth; Choose Whole Grains; Eat More Fiber -- especially fruits and vegetables; Choose Snacks with a Short Ingredient List; and Rethink Your Drink. 

With the support of Mrs. Clark’s 7th and 8th grade classes and the Garden Club, students created a movie that is periodically aired on the campus TV station reinforcing healthy eating habits for all students on campus. 

The Eat Smart 2 Be Smart Nutrition Educator contest is to recognizes teachers for their dedication and commitment to improving the health of students by educating and empowering children to choose nutritious food and be active daily. Teachers are in a unique position to help students make the connection between learning about nutritious foods in the classroom and then choosing those foods in the cafeteria. Through hands-on, experiential learning, students become excited and motivated to try new foods and make nutritious choices. Sharing these innovative stories about teaching nutrition in the classroom helps motivate and empower other teachers.

The Nutrition Educator Award is just one way the Eat Smart 2 Be Smart committee is achieving their goal of recognizing the positive contributions being made by teachers to support school meal programs through nutrition education. Dababneh (left) and Clark’s (with flowers at right) stories and related videos, are housed on the website created to provide valuable resources for students, teachers, parents and its members.

Congratulations again  Diana Dababneh and Kat Clark for going the extra mile to connect learning to life in your classrooms with nutrition education. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to you and all the educators who enrich our children's lives.

Tags: elementary food literacy nutrition education nutrition lesson plans physical activity school nutrition

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