The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Calories Out, Calories In: Physical Education and Nutrition Fuel Up To Play 60 Style

Posted in

Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018

For many reasons, I am proud to be a physical educator and love working with my wonderful Kindergarten through fourth grade students on a daily basis. One of the best, and most important parts of being a physical educator is that I am able to establish strong relationships with each student throughout multiple years. Establishing long term relationships makes it possible to influence each student in ways that lead to lifelong behaviors. In order to strengthen relationships and to influence healthy habits, I am always looking for new initiatives to add to my curriculum. The
NFL Play 60 programs have strengthened my curriculum and have helped to make my job even more meaningful and relevant. In particular, the Fuel Up To Play 60 Healthy Eating Plays have helped me to achieve some of my goals while promoting physical literacy. The Healthy Eating Plays that I have used were fun and engaging for all students. They have also enabled me to try new things while collaborating with a variety of colleagues and students.

For several years I have been trying to find engaging, authentic ways to teach nutrition and health content while participating in physical activity. Since I no longer teach health education, and there is not a health curriculum at my elementary school; it is crucial for me to teach health topics during physical education class. When the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) revised the National Standards and created Grade Level Outcomes a few years ago, I was thrilled that they included nutrition and health content. This has led me to teach specific learning targets that relate to physical activity and nutrition. SHAPE America has coined the phrase “good health balance” to describe the connection between physical activity and nutrition. This phrase is simple for students to understand and has many teachable aspects.

Through my involvement with the NFL Play 60 FitnessGram® Project, I have been able to implement a variety of physical education activities and school wide initiatives that involve nutrition and physical activity. The SHAPE America Grade Level Outcomes for Standard 3 have helped to give me a focus for each grade level. Two years ago my School District Food Service Director and I used Fuel Up To Play 60 grant funds to purchase a smoothie machine that is used for breakfast, lunch, and special events. The Student Council program that I advise, helped create smoothie recipes and provided taste tests during physical education, breakfast, and lunch. My students loved helping to create and sample smoothie recipes. This was a very meaningful experience which allowed them to learn more about nutrition, collaboration, and leadership.

Two years ago, my school received a separate grant from the National Dairy Council and we purchased a food cart for a “Grab and Go Breakfast” program. The “Grab and Go” breakfast cart is stationed in the hallway during breakfast for students to “grab” a breakfast and “go” to their classroom. This helps students to not have to decide between morning recess and breakfast. It also allows students who are tardy or arriving just as the bell rings to get a breakfast. The cart is also used during physical education class and for special events.

Last year, we used Fuel Up To Play 60 grant funds to purchase nutrition-based physical activity games, educational posters, nutrition curriculum, and food to be used with the food cart during physical education classes. The games, posters, and curriculum are available for classroom teachers to borrow and use with the students. The nutrition curriculum is specifically for classroom teachers to use while teaching literacy, math, social studies, and/or science. It has a variety of easy to implement unit and lesson plans that align with Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  

All of these projects that I have described came together during the spring of 2017 when I created a new Fuel Up To Play 60 Healthy Eating Play. For the spring 2017 Healthy Eating Play, I once again worked with our School District Food Service Director and we used all of the materials that we have purchased with grant funds during the past two years. He helped the school kitchen staff prepare healthy snacks for each of my 18 classes. At the end of class, students and adults were able to fuel up with delicious, nutritious snacks that were displayed on the food cart. The food cart was brought into the gymnasium and stocked with fruit and yogurt smoothies, fat free milk, cheddar cheese, and assorted fresh fruit. It was very enjoyable to fuel up after an active class while engaging in great conversation and making connections to My Plate.

Students were also able to provide valuable feedback on the selections of food and ways to use the food cart more often. During class we played cooperative games and fitness activities that focused on nutrition, My Plate, and Standard 3. Depending on the class and grade level, we played Fitness Skillastics with the nutrition cards, Harvest Hustle, danced with fruit and vegetable bean bag stuffed animals, and/or played target games with the stuffed animals. The bean bag stuffed animals are adorable and realistic. Even my fourth grade students loved playing with them. While participating in physical activity, we were able to refer to the My Plate and nutrient posters that I have displayed throughout the gymnasium. These lessons were a great way to teach the “good health balance” of physical activity and nutrition in an authentic way. I also used the food cart and focused on nutrition for heart health during our annual Jump Rope For Heart event. During each of the three jump-a-thons that I hosted, the food cart was available for students to fuel up.

I am very pleased with the Fuel Up To Play 60 Healthy Eating Plays that I have implemented and the outcomes that they have had on student learning. Students constantly ask me about the food cart and enjoy telling me about the nutritious food they eat before, during, and after school. I am already working with some colleagues to create our next Healthy Eating Play. Since my school has just hired a Farm to School Coordinator, there are some new opportunities for students. One of my goals for this year is to create a morning fitness program that meets after or before breakfast. This would be a fantastic way to Fuel Up To Play 60!

Timothy Scandale
Physical Educator
Morristown Elementary School, VT
FitnessGram Champion, NE Patriots and The Cooper Institute®