Middle school students to teach nutrition to third-grade class

Russell Anglin

Tucumcari Middle School’s Family Career and Community Leaders of America organization prepared lesson plans in class Thursday morning to present to Tucumcari third graders next week. The middle school students will teach the elementary school students about proper nutrition and exercise standards as part of the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service’s Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition (ICAN) program.

Quay County Extension Office ICAN educator Alice Johnson said she has been teaching Tucumcari’s elementary, middle and high schoolers how to live healthy lifestyles for three years now. She said the classes have served as a wake-up call to area families.

“I notice up at the school a lot of kids are staying inside more. The technology has come in and kids don’t get outside anymore. They don’t ride their bikes, they don’t exercise. and a lot of kids just don’t eat a lot of fruits and vegetables,” Johnson said.

On Thursday, FCCLA middle school students blended fruit smoothies and prepared toast in an oven. The students solved math problems to determine correct portions of each food group and sampled the food they prepared. The students also collaborated on songs and dance routines that would encourage their third-grade audience to be active.

Seventh grader H.D. McClure, 13, said the ICAN program has improved his health and increased his knowledge of nutrition.

“In the morning, instead of like, maybe sugary cereal, I’ll have eggs or toast, not buttered toast, or a shake that has apples or all kinds of different fruit in it, or maybe just fruit for breakfast. For lunch, you don’t have all kinds of snacks, you have one meal, which would be lunch,” McClure said. “The more snacks you eat, the more unhealthy you’re going to get and the more weight you build up. And instead of fast food, you make your own meals. Homemade meals are better for you.”

Johnson said she often hears from parents who notice a change in their child’s awareness of food.

“It’s really amazing how many will come up and say, ‘Well he wouldn’t eat that before,’ and now he wants to buy it at the store. And a lot of our program, too, is I let the kids touch things, make it themselves,” Johnson said. “You know how we are. When we cook something we always try something just to see what it takes like. And so with them, they’re the same way. They’re in the kitchen, they’re making things, they try it and they’re like, ‘Hey this is pretty good. It’s vegetables.’”