Heart Disease Prevention
We typically have a lesson on heart disease during February to coordinate with our Jump Rope for Heart event. One year, the topic hit too close to home, as one of our coaches had quadruple bypass surgery during the holidays. His recovery would take about 3 months, if everything went well. We were shocked because he always played with the students, ran their laps with them, and had been at that school for 27 years.
I set up a meeting with my other colleague and we decided to teach the heart disease lesson in January instead that year. It worked out well because this way the students would be able to start the year off on a healthy note!
We decided to let the students know what had happened to our colleague. The students were in shock, and were devastated to hear that he would be out for so long. Our first step was to introduce the anatomy of the heart, including blood vessels, arteries, capillaries and we also showed diagrams. Despite our efforts, the students weren't quite grasping the whole picture, so we decided to create our own diagrams! I went out and bought clear candy cane tubing, like the ones that M&M’s come in during Christmas. Next, I got food coloring and Crisco shortening from home. I added different amounts of the Crisco into the clear tubing and connected the tubing to a plastic heart. My colleague and I slowly poured food coloring into the tubing, simulating blood circulation. WOW! The students’ faces immediately illuminated with the AHA! They wanted to know, "Is that what happened to Coach Garcia’s heart?" One student even mentioned that, "in one heart the blood runs fast like the freeway, and in the other heart it looks like there is a traffic jam on the freeway!"
We then made lists of possible foods that were high in fat and cholesterol. We addressed food labels and focused on sodium, cholesterol, and saturated, trans, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The students brought food labels from home and we compared them in groups at school. We then made menus and the students suggested ways how we could substitute or change certain ingredients to make the food healthier. Finally, we concluded by playing games like Veins & Arteries, Hospital Tag, Heart Attack Tag, and Grocery Shopping Relays.
The students not only learned the heart prevention lesson, they also learned how to be more aware of the food they eat. Now, if you walk into our cafeteria you will see students checking the food labels on the lunch food or foods they bring from home. The parents have approached me and said, "You know Coach Armendariz, we no longer salt our food, we pepper them". Another parent mentioned that grocery shopping would take 1 hour, and now it’s 2 hours, since the students are reading the food labels in the store. It’s great to hear that students are practicing good habits that will help them in the future.
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First Aid Topics in Physical Education
Have you ever wondered, as physical educators, what influence we have in contributing to the health and medical fields and professions? As physical educators we teach our students many topics such as: dental hygiene, nutrition, drug and disease prevention, functions of the body systems, solutions to resolve conflict and how to report emergencies. When we educate these students, we give back to our health and medical care communities in ways we may not realize. The reason I decided to share this topic is because we never know who will be the next surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse, EMT or pharmacist. I will share two short stories I have experienced that show the impact that teaching these topics has on students.
My colleague has been working for many years at the same school in the same profession. He taught Health lessons on Thursdays to students during his physical education class. One time he drew a colorful heart and went over the functions of the heart. The students were intrigued and kept asking questions and he kept giving them answers. Well, two years ago my colleague ended up in the emergency room and underwent triple bypass heart surgery. To his surprise, waking up groggy and in pain a male nurse asked him, “Are you Coach Garcia?” My colleague didn’t have his glasses on and responded, "Yes. Why do you ask?" The male nurse responded, "You were my Coach a long time ago". My colleague laughed and said, "So, what are you doing here?" The male nurse responded, "My favorite part of physical education (PE) was Thursdays Health class- I loved all of your drawings."
I teach first aid basics such as how to handle nosebleeds, cuts, bruises, burns, and how to dial 9-1-1. I love to role-play scenario’s with the other coaches at my school. We go all out by use different props, glue paint, makeup to mimic burns, bruises, and abrasions. We also use the siren on our megaphones and bring dollar store phones to use for calling 9-1-1. The students love all the acting yet, we explain that these are real life situations and we must react quickly to save lives. We get standing ovations from the students and they always ask us when is the next scenario will be.
I have two memorable moments that I would love to share with everyone because we always have an impact of students’ lives. One is when I taught a health lesson about how to call 9-1-1. The next day a teacher brings a copy of a newspaper clipping that I have laminated and use as a reference. One of my students, while waiting in the car for his mother, saw an elderly lady get attacked by a swarm of bees when a beehive fell to the ground. He called 9-1-1 using his mothers cell phone and was able to get the ambulance and fire department their within minutes. The lady survived. My second memorable moment was when I walked into the hospital cafeteria while visiting my grandmother. A young man in scrubs approached me and said, “Excuse me. Are you Coach Armendariz?” I replied, "Yes, why do you ask?". He said, "I am working in the ER as a nurse". He then mentioned that he really enjoyed when I taught the summer enrichment courses about first aid. His goal is to be a doctor in the emergency room at that hospital and he thanked me for introducing him to that profession.
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Teaching Nutrition to Elementary Students
Nutrition: When, what and how do we teach it? Is teaching nutrition time consuming, too much work, or just simply not worth it? The answer is No! You can make a nutrition lesson as short or long, or as easy or challenging as you see fit. It’s all up to you, your class time and the other subjects or lessons you are teaching that collaborate with this lesson.
A couple of years ago, I was teaching a health lesson to my elementary students in regards to food portions. I noticed that as I spoke to them, they were not really interested in what I had to say. Especially, when I was telling them to reduce the amount of pizza slices and other types of foods they enjoy eating. I think the students pushed the ‘mute’ button on me. So I quickly over-rode the mute button by showing them a visual menu. I asked the coaches to watch the class while I ran and got my lunch from the locker room.
I grabbed a frisbee, black marker, 4 star-shaped cut-outs I had on top of my desk and my lunch bag. This was a 5 minute lesson short and simple. First, I told students that the Frisbee was my plate as I flipped it upside down. Next, I used my black marker to make the letter T on the plate showing 4 equal compartments. I explained that we need foods from all the food groups in order to keep our bodies healthy. I then closed my hand into a tight fist and showed them a portion size. Finally, I placed my closed fist in each compartment of the Frisbee to show them that the portion did not get bigger. On each of the star-shaped cut-outs, I wrote out four of the key food groups: protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. I proceeded by taking out my grilled chicken in a Ziploc bag and placed in one compartment, which represented my protein. Next, I showed them my steamed broccoli in my snack bowl, which represented the vegetable group. Then, I showed them my dinner roll, which checked my whole grains off of the list! I also had a nectarine which I used to cover my fruit portion. They were amazed that all the food items fit in each compartment of the plate. During lunch, it was great to see the students making a fist and measuring the food portions the cafeteria staff had served them. As the students approached me they said, “Coach, you’re right! The food is portion size!” I said to myself Mission Accomplished!
The students really started enjoying the lessons and we used some of our grant money to buy food items. The grant money came from our CATCH grant some years back. We would talk about how to make better food choices and how to give the healthy foods a chance. It was so successful that we had aprons and chef hats made by a community member. The parent volunteers would help us pass out the snack of the day while the cafeteria staff allowed us to use some of their pots and pans. I brought all my pampered chef items from home, along with my colorful tablecloths, bowls and utensils. We designed our logo and our PTA association paid for screening on our aprons and chef hats. The students learned about Nutrition, presentation, culinary arts and portions. It’s so rewarding to hear students responses when you ask them: What they are making? Why is it healthy? How much should they eat? So give it a shot—it is lots of fun (for you and the students)!
Look at these great products to help you start up or re-vamp your Nutrition unit!
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Physical Education + Core Subjects = Healthy Mind and Healthy Body!
This topic is interesting to me because many times I’ve heard comments such as, "exercise grows brain cells", "exercise does a body good", and "active kids make better learners". So, I decided that if this is true, let’s get it going! I knew that my students were getting quality physical education activities and lessons. So, my hypothesis was that by the end of the school year my students were going to be more intelligent. Those classroom teachers were going to be so proud of my contribution to increasing testing scores. Well, just wait a minute; I knew that my students were getting the physical activity component yet what about the core subject criteria? Did I really know if the students were mastering skills and on task? Did they understand math and science and could they express themselves in a written assignment? No, I did not have that vital and important information.
I then questioned myself, "if our students are healthy in gym class how could I bring in the healthy mind component?" I knew that would come from collaborating with the classroom teachers. When the teachers brought their students out to physical education class I asked the question, “Is there a certain task, skill or subject that your students are quite not grasping?” There first reply was why and I then said that I would like to help them (teachers as well as students) by combing physical education activities with classroom subject areas. The classroom teachers were excited and volunteered the information I needed. I did explain that I would incorporate different subjects and skills depending on the physical education activity and it would not be every day. They were grateful and eager to help especially after I mentioned our goal was to increase student learning. I shared with them that physical activity made them more alert and the students could focus more on the challenging tasks.
Like the passionate and enthusiastic person that I am, I started researching information on exercise and learning, attended conventions and discussed ideas with other physical education colleagues. This is where I learned that incorporating physical education and core subjects could be as simple and creative as you want it to be to develop a healthy mind.
I will share one game that a colleague of mine shared at an in-service that helped students with science, math, sport skills and conditioning.
The name of the activity is called $10.00 and a Bone. The activity can be used with all grades K-5 with adaptations. Before starting this activity we discussed the skeletal system and function of the bones. Next we practiced counting play money (all dollars). Then students were divided into teams of 5 or any number that accommodates your class size. Each team gets a colored, laminated skeleton that is cut into segments. They will be working together to build a skeleton. We reminded the students that there would be stations all around the gym and when they performed and completed an activity they must come to the banker (coaches) that will give them $1.00. In my class $5.00 buys a bone. So the team members can put their money together to buy a bone to start their skeleton. The first team to build the skeleton and all the bones are in the appropriate places wins! The students learn science terms, bone functions, perform math functions and a get moderate to vigorous workout. These students go back to the classroom alert and ready to learn. So we developed a healthy mind and a healthy body by combining physical activity and core subjects. Give it a try! Ignite some minds and bodies!
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