‘Healthy Living’ curriculum at some Queens schools teaches students smarter nutritional choices

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

Students at some Queens schools are learning the difference a healthy meal makes in their lives, both in the classroom and at home.

Youth tennis and education organization New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL) and wellness company EmblemHealth have come together to build and launch a “Healthy Living” curriculum at 18 city schools to help students make smarter, more nutritional food choices.

The curriculum is offered to students in kindergarten through eighth grade at schools NYJTL works with to provide year-round programs and activities through its Aces Clubs, which students take part in for three hours each day after school.

The programs offer students character education, homework help, the ability to play and learn about tennis, and – most recently – healthy living education.

“Looking at their faces and having young kids think about, learn about, develop a vocabulary about healthy living is very similar to developing a vocabulary about character,” said Deborah Antoine, president and CEO of NYJTL. “The kids are really getting smart about making some decisions and when they combine those new thoughts and skills with other character-building skills it becomes a wonderful way the kids begin to interact with their families.”

Out of the 18 schools, seven are in Queens, including P.S. 37 in Jamaica, P.S. 42 in Arverne, I.S. 61 in Corona, P.S. 106 in Far Rockaway, M.S. 147 in Cambria Heights and P.S. 706 in Long Island City.

Through the “Healthy Living” curriculum, created by a nutrition and wellness specialist, students receive lessons on food groups, exercise and the benefits of making healthy decisions.

Students are also given “Bodega Buddy” clip cards that hook onto their book bags and remind them of healthy food choices they can make at their local stores for after-school snacks.

Third graders Kevin Lopez and Tyla Hooks each hold a "Bodega Buddy."
Third-graders Kevin Lopez and Tyla Hooks each hold a “Bodega Buddy.”

The program encourages interaction between students and their families, so parents and guardians also receive a family guide providing information on how to shop at supermarkets and how to modify recipes on daily meals.

“We want to be the sponsor of people taking small steps to leading healthier lives,” said David Flemister, EmblemHealth’s director of brand strategy and community marketing. “Our hope is that [the students] continue the behavior for a lifetime.”

Third-grader Tyla Hooks, who on March 10 learned about protein with her class at P.S. 127 Aerospace Science Magnet in East Elmhurst, said she enjoys the classes and learning about healthy foods.

During that day’s lesson, the students were asked to eat sardines and watched a video on the importance of protein to their bodies.

“I’ve been learning about the different food groups and how healthy the foods are. They are all good and good for you,” Hooks said.

Her classmate, 8-year-old Kevin Lopez, said that his favorite lesson was about making health smoothies. His favorite smoothie, which he asked his parents to make at home, was a peanut butter smoothie made with soy milk and bananas.

“I like it. My favorite part is we get to try new foods,” Lopez said. “I like learning so I know which foods are healthy and which are not.”


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