Friday, August 17, 2012
My son is going into Grade 6 now and I'm starting to really see the effects of all the new things they started implementing into the curriculum and how their changed policies have helped after all.
When my son started JK the schools were just starting a whole new view around health and nutrition. Candy was no longer being sold at schools (eventually cutting out the selling of chocolate bars too!) and no pop machines any more. Vending machines no longer offered pop but juice instead - but now they don't even have vending machines.
From the 1st year of school (yep - JK) they teach kids about the 4 food groups and the difference between junk food and healthy snacks. In Grade 1 they were taught how to read a nutrition label. TO me - it seemed a bit ridiculous to be starting so young. My biggest concern when they learned how to read a nutrition label was that kids would worry about calories (and they did at 1st) and I was worried that they would be more self conscious about their weight. Turned out that no more kids were than what there is normally as they get older. I really worried about a lot of things and I was resistant mostly because I felt that it should be a parent's job to teach about these things NOT the schools.
It's been 7 years now (JK-Grade 5) with all the new changes and I actually have to say that I am quite proud of our schools and the changes they chose to make. My children eat better and ask for less junk. We go to a coffee shop and they just want a beverage - they don't care for donuts or muffins. For me that was the best thing about a coffee shop when I was little - oh yay!!! I get a treat!!
All the little things they changed in school seemed like a waste of time at 1st but now I can see the huge difference it has made!! The year that just ended, my oldest, Brandon, was in a class where the teacher encouraged healthy choices by telling the kids that they're allowed to have a water bottle to sip from all day long as long as it's only water in it and they can help themselves to a snack during the day as long as it's fresh fruit. My oldest isn't really into fruit but he wanted to fit in and he has a hard time making it to 1st nutrition break (I'll explain those in a minute) so he decided to ask us to start sending him apples or grapes everyday for his lunch!!! This little change in the classroom has changed the way lots of kids in that class eat. I've heard from other parents too comment about how it's gotten their kids to ask for less junk on weekends too just because it becomes habit and they learn to enjoy fruit.
There are incentives throughout the year when it's encouraged that all kids bring a litterless lunch and if you participate you get some type of reward. This happens a few times a year. It's amazing how many of us parents pack lunches just out of convenience instead of for healthy snacks. I thought I was doing good packing healthy stuff til the one day they said litterless lunch and I went to throw a prepackaged applesauce in their lunch bag and then it hit me - OMG everything I buy is always prepackaged!!
Another change made when my oldest started school (I think it was SK or Grade 1 though), they changed the layout of recess and lunch. It is no longer called those titles any more - it's called "Nutrition Breaks" There are 2 of them. Neither are at a normal lunchtime. They are spread out so that you never go very long without being able to have something to eat. This was to help the younger kids to not be so cranky close to lunch when they're getting hungry but don't want to wait - plus it also coincides with the concept that us adults are retraining ourselves to do...snack throughout the day so that we're not overeating later!! They didn't really explain the change very thoroughly. They just said it was to help kids eat better and to reduce a kid's chances of becoming obese. This sounded ridiculous to me!! How can 2 lunches a day help reduce a kid's chance of becoming fat????? That took quite a few years before that one clicked. I wish they had've explained that one a bit better to us parents so that it wouldn't have seemed to terrible and more of us would've been on board.
I have to admit now that I'm starting to understand the reasoning behind the changes better - that this was a great idea for our schools and that I do see a lot of change. As I watch the older kids leave the school - I see less and less super skinny kids and even less chunky kids. There will always be some but it's not like it was a few years ago. I also hear parents talk about healthier foods when they talk about what they're making for supper that night. I can honestly say that when a kid is less resistant to healthy food - parents will eat better too. When you've had a rough day - the last thing you want to do is get into a fight with your kids to eat a healthy meal. That used to be our house with my oldest most nights. Brandon was a very picky eater and it took quite some time to get him to even try new foods!!! It was horrid and when you have those days where everything goes wrong and you can't bear to listen to your whiny child complain about how he's NOT going to eat his food and that you can't make him...makes you just want to boil some hot dogs and cook some fries and say here help yourselves!!
I have come to realize that sometimes we as parents don't always have the correct info to pass down to our children r we are too busy to teach all the good things to our children. It's good to have the opportunity for our children to learn about it there and be bringing that info home. How many of us have learned a great deal since signing up for SparkPeople?? Think about all the people still out there that have no idea about this info at our fingertips - they can't pass it down to their kids because they haven't learned it themselves!! I look back at all the stuff my parents taught me about food and trust me - I'm glad I'm not passing that info down!! LOL
I know there are lots of different regions where the schools have taken it upon them to change the way children view food and I know a lot of regions are just starting to make changes. What sort of changes have been done in your child's school? If none have been made - would you have what it takes to show up at a board meeting with the info and examples to approach the school board with the suggestions to make a change?