randomimage_leftIf it’s been a while since you’ve addressed nutrition in your classroom, use this activity to bring healthy eating back in focus with the kids you lead.

Adapted from Balance My Day™ nutrition curriculum, Grades 3-5, Lesson 2

Explain that healthy eating means choosing a healthy plate (food from all 5
MyPlate food groups: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Dairy, Protein) with less of those foods high in fat and added sugar.

Divide kids into teams and give each team 10 or more food cards or magazine pictures (representing a variety of food groups).

Ask the teams to use the cards/pictures to create a meal that has all 5 MyPlate food groups. Provide the MyPlate poster for kids to view.

Ask each team to present the meal they created and explain the ease or difficulty of choosing a meal with foods from all 5 food groups.

Encourage kids to think about and try to eat a variety of foods from the 5 food groups at their meals.




clapYou know it’s coming…as Thanksgiving and winter break approach kids get fidgety and need more help focusing on school work. Below are three HEAR-SEE-DO ideas to help kids re-focus.

Help kids hear the message that an active break helps them refocus on school work.
Let them see examples of quick and easy movements they can try.
Let them do by performing active play brain breaks.

  1. Crossovers (right & left brain exercises) – Have kids move their right elbow across their body to their left knee as they are raising it. Touch and resume to standing. Do the same with the left elbow and right knee. Repeat these 2 movements back and forth continuously for 2-3 minutes.

  2. Pencil Jumps – For a quick movement break between lessons have each student place a pencil on the floor. On command kids are to jump over their pencil a designated number of times.

  3. Over, Under, In-Between – For younger elementary kids, have them hop over, crawl under or walk (skip, gallop) in-between various items in the classroom.



During our Balance My Day Training at Westmar Middle School in beautiful Allegany County, MD, a concerned teacher asked bal my day cov 3_5 101027how to help obese middle school students knowing best practice guidelines advise against weight-loss diets for children and adolescents who are still growing taller. Addressing that dilemma, among a number of other concerns, is what the Balance My Day Training helps school personnel do! Using the Balance My Day Healthy 6 Messages, this teacher and his colleagues designed approaches to help all (not just overweight kids) Allegany Middle Schoolers eat healthier and move more.

Some of the approaches Allegany County teachers and administrators planned include:

  • serving healthy foods instead of doughnuts at staff meetings;
  • using hula hoops and bean bags in a relay race to teach MyPlate concepts;
  • employing the school’s smart t.v. system to motivate students to try new, healthful foods;
  • conducting science experiments with fruits and vegetables;
  • using healthy eating and physical activity as art project themes;
  • scheduling regular classroom brain breaks and
  • examining healthful recipes and food labels to teach math concepts.

Because of our discussions about role modeling healthy behaviors, I was thrilled to hear several teachers commit to stop using candy as a classroom reward.

Allegany County, MD schools has been proactive in helping their students to form healthy habits. As a result of our Balance My Day Training, teachers and administrators have many more exciting tools to motivate students to eat healthfully and move more.

Workshop-Coal TownshipPAEarly into the BMD (Balance My Day ) training in Coal Township, PA, a teacher acknowledged that adding nutrition education to the already long list of topics to be addressed in the classroom is overwhelming. This is a common concern! I was happy that this brave teacher said out loud what others at the training, and many before, were also thinking.

We addressed this concern by assuring participants that BMD nutrition education is totally flexible and can fit any teacher’s needs. It integrates with core curriculum, and can be used as a 1-minute bain break all the way to a 40-minute cooking skills lesson. Throughout the day we focused on Hear, See and Do Activities, which incorporate healthy eating and moving more while learning math, science, social studies and literacy.

  • Some of the teachers decided to use a book exhibit or book fair to promote healthy lifestyle choices;
  • several others started planning for cooking in the classroom with BMD Curriculum recipes.
  • One teacher enjoyed the food trivia questions in the BMD Book and is planning to include these as part of her morning routine;
  • another realized that by encouraging her students to move from their classroom carpet back to their seats using different locomotive skills such as sliding or tiptoeing, she is promoting fun physical movement.
  • Brain Breaks will be used as a time to get students up and moving and learning about healthy food choices in several classrooms.

By the end of the training, I was impressed to see that in spite of their reservations about busy schedules, Coal Township teachers had designed a number of easy-to-implement nutrition education techniques and classroom physical activities. The students at Coal Township have a lot to look forward to!

“Very informative and lots of activities for school-aged children. Great workshop to participate [in]. I’d recommend this HKC-SPARK workshop to others.”  – Lisa Gass, Shamokin Area

HKC On the Road: Mentor, OH

January 29, 2015

PEP Grant training

PEP Grant nutrition ed training in Mentor, OH

Despite the first of the season snowfall in Ohio, P.E. teachers from the Mentor, OH, school district joined with health educators and registered dietitians from the Lake County General Health District in Painesville, OH, for a Balance My Day training.

Two training activity games got teachers’ competitive spirits flowing:

  • The Food Feud game makes use of food trivia facts found throughout the Balance My Day curriculum and
  • Nutrition Mission is a human scavenger hunt that helps educators identify colleagues who are practicing healthy behaviors

Both games found participants trying to outdo their co-workers’ performance. Both are examples of how to use games in an engaging way to teach about nutrition education and physical activity.

At the end of the training, participants had designed a tag game to actively teach about healthy snacks, and a hula-hoop activity to teach MyPlate while having students move around the gym. Other participants discussed ways to use label reading to help parents and students learn healthy eating facts and plans were begun to host a family night which emphasized healthy eating and physical activity.

“Our Healthy Kids Challenge workshop with Jane went wonderfully! She provided great information for our PE teachers to use in the classroom.” Rachel Patrick, CHES Health Educator, Lake County General Health District

“Healthy Kids Challenge training gave physical education teachers from 28 elementary schools the tools necessary to incorporate nutrition curriculum into their everyday classes.”

“The methods used are simple and time efficient which allows physical education teachers to incorporate lessons into their short class periods.”

“Jane provides the knowledge and experience necessary to produce a successful training while keeping participants engaged!”

“I would recommend the SPARK Program workshops to others because it’s a great program for a subject that doesn’t always get a lot of attention.”


  • Offering students a tasting event, WorkshopLakeGenevaPE
  • creating a nutrition team teaching approach between P.E. and health teachers,
  • broadcasting photos of attractive lunch offerings on school TV announcements,
  • playing tag and dodge ball games with a nutrition message…

All of these are ideas that P.E. teachers and school food service staff at Lake Geneva, WI schools recently designed as part of their Balance My Day training.

WorkshopLakeGenevaFSTeachers and school food service personnel created achievable plans to promote healthy lifestyles such as encouraging the district’s culinary arts students to be healthy eating ambassadors, using P.E. games and warm-up or cool down time to discuss nutrition facts and featuring school faculty and staff as role models for healthy behaviors. All of these approaches (and more) will enhance learning and create a healthy, balanced school day for students, faculty and staff in Lake Geneva, WI.

“I recommend [HKC]-SPARK Program workshops to others. (It) helps schools see areas where they can work together as a team and bring into all areas. ” Dr. Jan Eckola, Lake Geneva Schools

HKC On the Road: Denver, CO

December 30, 2014

DenverworkshopWhen I think about the day I spent in the Denver Public Schools working with staff from five of their area high schools the words that come to me are collaborative and dedicated. The district has a PEP grant and is working very hard to implement at the high school level all sorts of collaborative partnership efforts – from the development of building level wellness councils to providing training for the school food service staff in an effort to work more closely with the PE department and the grant.

We not only had food service managers but an RD for the district, the leadership from the PE department, grant coordinator and evaluator, along with wellness staff representation at the training. Questions weren’t about why should we do this but what are the steps we need to take or not about should we apply for any of the wellness school awards (HealthierUS School Challenge, Alliance for a Healthier Generation, etc.) but which one first!

As we all know it’s sometimes a big challenge to create sustained change in a high school setting without a great deal of obstacles and resistance. I won’t say this school district has all the answers; they would agree with me that they don’t, but they are seeking answers, doing the work, engaging community partners, students, and staff to make a healthy difference for kids.

It truly was a “Rocky Mountain High” for me to get the opportunity to work with this very professional and motivated team! I hope to have many happy returns in the months ahead.

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