Tucumcari Middle School's Family Career and Community Leaders of America organization concluded its series of healthy living classes Thursday. The middle school FCCLA students have been taking turns teaching Tucumcari Elementary School third graders about diet and exercise for the past five weeks as part of the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service’s Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition (ICAN) program.
For their final class, middle schoolers Laura Evans and Jazmine Howleg handed out packets to Pat Sherwood's third graders. Evans and Howleg talked about how exercise improves mood, combats chronic disease, aids weight management, boosts energy, promotes sleep, increases brain function and provides a way to have fun.
Evans and Howleg worked on a dance routine with the third graders to go along with a song about healthy eating and exercise.
Later, the class assembled a snack made of bread, cream cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, a strawberry, raisins, cucumbers and olives. Once finished, the snacks resembled smiling faces with eyes, noses and hair.
Third graders also colored a coded food pyramid with differently-sized sections representing the portions of each food group a person should consume for a balanced diet.
"The kids, they look up to us, so they know they should eat healthier and exercise more," Evans said.
Sherwood said her third graders benefit from the healthy living lessons and from the enthusiasm the middle school FCCLA students demonstrate when teaching her class.
"I think the community as a whole should support better nutrition with our kids, period, because the kids, if they don't have good, balanced meals, they won't do well. The kids at school get balanced meals. Sometimes at home — I know at my house it's not always a balanced meal. You know, sometimes that junk food is really nice. But the kids, they really learn. They'll come home and say 'Last night I fixed so-and-so for my snack,' and it was what we had that day," Sherwood said.
Evans said she and her fellow FCCLA group members will take the project they developed for these classes and submit it for state competition next semester. The middle schoolers said they enjoyed teaching the third graders but did not know if they would ever consider teaching as a profession.
"I haven't really thought about it," Howleg said.