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Stability Balls in the Classroom Cut the Wiggles and Increase Learning

Recently I attended a group meeting with my daughter’s third grade teacher. All the parents were encouraged to sit in our child’s designated spot. As my adult-sized body balanced precariously on the uncomfortable wooden chair beneath me, I wondered how in the world little bodies – with much less backside cushion – could stand to spend eight hours sitting on what is essentially a small plank with legs. Evidently, teachers have also struggled with this ergonomic conundrum over the years and now, many schools are adopting a new seating strategy – stability balls.

stability ball classroom

Normally used in the gym for exercises that improve core strength and posture, a new line of stability balls are now being marketed for use in the office and classroom. Available in friendly primary colors, the balls are equipped with legs to discourage kids from rolling them around the room or having ball races. Because, yeah, they’re way ahead of you on that one, you little shenaniganizers. The idea behind the use of stability balls in the classroom is based around the theory that when the body is engaged, the mind is, too.

The balls aren’t cheap, particularly when you’re outfitting an entire classroom, but teachers who have adopted the new seating arrangement say they’re pleased with the outcome. Though a few teachers had trouble with students throwing the balls or other mistreatment, most said they noticed an immediate improvement in their students’ attention spans. A few educators noticed they had trouble with kids bouncing on them for the first few days, but that quickly diminished with redirection. One form of redirection included going back to the wooden plank chair.


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FREE Printables for Food Pun Gift Tags

Don’t give just any ordinary food or snack gift when you can make them punny! We had a lot of fun coming up with just the right sentiment to complement some of our favorite healthier snacks and hope you have an easier time sharing the goods. We purposely left them generic enough to not require any particular time of year or holiday. And we also purposely made them completely free so that you can spring for the really good treats!

Just click, print the PDF, and trim them out. Then, share with the special friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, and other dear ones in your life.

JUSTIN Case You Didn’t Know

justins pb gift tags

This gift is butter than every other choc + pb cup out there (#fact)! And with this sweet tag, it makes Justin’s a pretty easy (and organic!) gift to share. Wrap one pack or a few and seal the deal with our simple message.

Download the Justin’s Gift Tag PDF. 6 tags/sheet

Thanks for Being EXTRA Nice

extra gum gift

This simple gift is a real mint that doesn’t require too much extra effort on your part. We filled a small jar with sticks of Extra sugar-free gum and delivered with the tag affixed to the lid.

Download the Extra Gift Tag PDF. 5 tags/sheet
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Teacher Chris Gomez Cut the Fat and Lost 140 Pounds

This summer, Chris Gomez is taking his students to Six Flags and the first thing he’s going to do is ride a roller coaster. In fact, the kids may have a hard time getting him to do anything else. For Chris, a special education teacher from New York, being able to fit in to a coaster car again means another triumph on his weight loss journey.

c gomez collage resize

At age 34, Chris admits to being slightly overweight most of his life with a few periods of weight loss in between, but due to emotional eating, late-night snacking and lack of portion control (eating multiple desserts), he could never keep the extra pounds off for very long. As a die-hard Mets fan and sports enthusiast, Chris knew as his weight continued to climb, his energy plummeted and his ability to participate in the activities he once enjoyed like softball, were beginning to decline.

Chris describes his a-ha weight loss moment, saying, “I was sitting at a friends’ house and ordered 20 chicken wings for lunch and half way through I realized that I couldn’t continue to do this to myself. One day a doctor would tell me that I was running myself into the ground and I would have nothing to do about it. So I decided enough was enough.”


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Yoga Helps Relieve Back to School Anxiety for Students and Teachers

First day of school jitters ensue this time of year for students and teachers alike. Just a few nasty side effects of back-to-school anxiety include  constipation, diarrhea, insomnia, and headaches. Your first reaction may be to pop a pill, but thankfully, yoga can help, too.

Practice these simple yoga poses in the morning before school and in the evening before bed to calm your nerves, clear your mind, and release stress and tension.

Easy Pose to Feel Grounded

More comfortable than trying to twist and tweak your knees in lotus pose, Easy Pose offers the same calming effect in mind and body. You don’t have to be a pro at meditation, either. This pose is appropriate for anyone willing to be more centered.
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Students Succeeding with Yoga Curriculum in the Classroom

As school budgets continue to shrink, one area we see cut time and time again is physical education. Schools eliminate this vitally important part of a student’s schedule in exchange for more classroom time to prep for tests, reduce the burden of a full-time teacher salary, and maintenance costs for gym and equipment. It’s to the detriment of our students that they lose PE programs. In some schools they’re actually finding new ways to infuse fitness back in to the learning environment, though.

Yoga has long been celebrated for its extensive list of benefits, which include focus, energy, and overall fitness for even the youngest of practitioners. While not as common as reading or math, yoga is making an appearance in more and more schools, and it’s proving as worthwhile to students as anything they’re learning in a book.

In 2001, The Accelerated School in Los Angeles introduced a pilot program of YogaEd. Lead by Tara Guber, an expert practitioner and teacher with more than 25 years experience, the students followed a secular yoga practice that taught relaxation, stress, self-esteem, as well as posture and body awareness. Two years later, the results of the program were analyzed in a study that deemed the yoga curriculum not only worthwhile for that school, but worthy of introduction in more schools. Today, they tell us they have 900 instructors in the 35 states and Canada.

Victor High School of Victor, New York is one school that has added yoga to its physical education curriculum. For the past seven years yoga has been on the elective schedule for students and it’s always one of the first classes to fill up, according to Shelly Collins, PE Department Chair and High School Physical Educator at Victor High. She told us the course was initially only open to juniors and seniors for the first five years, but it was so well received that they are now in their second year of offering the yoga class to freshmen and sophomores, too.

“We have a strong passion to introduce and teach our students activities that they can use for their lifetime,” said Collins. The staff practiced that passion seven years ago when the school’s director of physical education, Ronald Whitcomb, challenged them to find a fitness class that was popular in the community and bring it back to their students. After meeting with local yoga studio owners, the curriculum was set and the course added.

The Victor High students attend a one-hour beginner level class each week, and many have grown in their aptitude and enjoyment of the practice enough to pursue community yoga classes outside of school. “They are confident that they will be able to understand and participate,” said Collins.

Proven benefits of yoga in schools include improved self-esteem for students, better overall physical health, better grades, lower stress, and improved problem solving capabilities. What parent wouldn’t want that for their child? What teacher wouldn’t also benefit from this in each of her students?

“Yoga is a lifetime activity that our students find enjoyable and challenging,” said Collins. “Many students comment that they are more relaxed and less stressed after having finished one of our yoga classes. The health benefits are something that the students can feel right away, and in this day and age of ‘instant gratification,’ it has immediate results with our students.”

Unlike a math teacher who can’t so easily transition to teach an English class, yoga can be taught by anyone on staff with the certification. Hundreds of teachers have gained such certifications through Lisa Flynn’s Yoga 4 Classrooms, a program piloted at an elementary school in Maine. After positive feedback and great results, thousands of teachers were inspired to add the practice to their classrooms.

It’s important to note the use of “secular” yoga mentioned in the YogaEd program, as there are continually differing opinions on the religious implications of the practice. “We explain that yoga is not religion, and appeal to school administrators that our curriculum is modeled the same as English or math with lesson plans that meet national PE standards,” Ellen Vittoria of YogaEd told us. In some schools, the word yoga isn’t even used, nor is meditation, and it’s referred to as stretch class or something else generic. Schools avoid anything that may have a religious undertone to prevent backlash from parents. Vittoria explained that all of their course materials use English translations with no mention of Sanskrit or Hindu. Whether yoga is spiritual, religious, or purely physical, the debate exists and should be treaded lightly.

As far as the costs, they can actually be fairly minimal to the school or district. At Victor High, they made an initial investment of mats and blocks and replace as needed. It’s more affordable to have a current staff member, ideally someone from the physical education department, trained and certified than it would be to hire a full-time dedicated yoga instructor. It’s also possible that community members would lead the yoga courses for a free or discounted rate as a way of giving back.

The benefits exist for the students, teachers, and schools when any kind of physical fitness is included in the curriculum. But yoga goes beyond the lessons of sportsmanship and teamwork, it teaches discipline, commitment, and the ability to listen to oneself. “I feel like students get so stressed out these days over good grades, making teams, getting into the right college—it’s high competition. Yoga could be a great outlet for them to feel calm and teach each moment as it comes,” said Kathryn Budig, a renowned yoga expert who is releasing The Big Book of Yoga this fall with Rodale.

Also Read:

Back to School Yoga Relieves the Jitters

5 Ways Teachers Can Improve the Health of Their Classrooms

Sarah Wu’s “Fed Up With Lunch” Outs the Nutritionally-Void School Lunch Program