With students across the nation being tempted by junk food lurking in vending machines and in school cafeterias, one school is doing all it can to teach its students how they can resist these high-calorie cravings. Woodhull Elementary School, located in Suffolk County, has used NYSUT’s healthy living initiative, “24/7 Let’s Go!” to instill important healthy living tips into their impressionable minds.
When NYSUT created the program a few years back, physical education teacher Teresa Carrozzo knew that it would be a fun and alternative way to educate and engage her students about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Given her own supply of “24/7” kits by her union, Carrozzo’s students displayed no hesitance about jumping on the “24/7” bandwagon. The program accompanied by calendars, healthy eating and exercising brochures and even stickers, is designed to encourage students do seven healthy things daily, seven days of the week. And to engage students, each healthy choice is rewarded with a sticker to be placed on the student’s calendar. Carrozzo — a member of William Floyd United Teachers — was thrilled to see her students fill up their calendars with fruit, veggie and ‘active’ stickers so quickly.
In February 2010, NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue attended the fourth annual healthy lifestyles parade, hosted at the elementary school. Students — dressed as athletes, fruits and even vegetables — marched down the halls of Woodhull carrying posters and signs informing parade watchers with tips to succeed in being healthy.
"Tragically, it's no secret that childhood obesity has become epidemic," said Donahue. "This is a serious problem that could lead to adult obesity and other health problems, including coronary disease, respiratory problems, diabetes and depression."
In today’s hectic world, filled with more responsibilities than ever, it’s easy for parents to lose control over their own healthy habits, providing a poor foundation on healthy living for their kids. By bringing a program like NYSUT’s “24/7 Let’s Go” to the classroom, students are educated properly about exercise and nutrition and have the motivation and support of their teachers and peers to make the right choices. As ironic as it sounds, the program acts as a “healthy peer pressure” to the students at Woodhull elementary, as they strongly encourage one another to make good over bad.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 16 percent of children and teens between the ages of six and 19 are overweight, triple the number reported in 1980. Long gone are the days of endless play with friends, replaced by watching TV for hours and playing video games online with virtual friends. A recent study from Baylor College of Medicine discovered too much television time increases the obesity risk in young children, and that students who spend hours each day at a computer are likely to have more body fat. The study recommended limiting young children to no more than two hours of television a day.
Student Christine Cobb gave her own opinion about the “24/7” program: “It is about eating right and staying fit. You should always eat fruits and vegetables and not so much junk food ... Go outside with your friends or join a sport. Anything that's healthy and good for your body, you should do it.”
Carrozzo stated that NYSUT’s initiative and support behind “24/7” has been key to making the program at Woodhull a great success. Who knew it was so easy to get students excited about salad?
Carrozzo is one of hundreds of educators who have made the program a success at their school. Since NYSUT first offered “24/7 Let's Go!” in 2005, more than 100,000 kits have been distributed. Kits are free to NYSUT members and can be ordered by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include a mailing address and specify how many sets you will need for distribution. More information about this program can be found online at locals.nysut.org/247.
-- Luke Anapolis