Teaching the Whole Child Includes Learning what Fuels Your Body

A seventh-grade student held a popular fruit punch container high in the air shaking it at Mr. Samon, the new physical education and health teacher at New Beginnings Family Academy.  

He took it from her, paused for a minute and simply said “Nope.”  

Students in Mr. Samon’s class are learning what foods provide real nutrition and which don’t.  

Most United States children attend school for six hours a day and consume as much as half of their daily calories at school, and at NBFA that’s a good thing.  

Mr. Samon, who joined NBFA this Fall after three years teaching in San Francisco, is addressing food decisions students make outside of school.  

Students in seventh grade are keeping food journals, breaking down what they eat and when. 

“So what the food journal is not, is something that is used to shame or get students in trouble for eating certain foods or not eating enough of other foods,” said Samon. “It is simply a tool used to bring awareness to the students, so they start to realize and become aware of what they are putting in their bodies. This gets them to notice patterns of foods they eat or foods they don't eat.  Trying the food journal helps them to think more about the food choices they are making on a daily basis.”  

Connecticut law doesn’t require it (virtually no school district requires it), but NBFA has added it to its curriculum as part of its whole-child approach to education.  

Many think a physical education teacher just teaches gym. Many think a health class is just about the birds and the bees – not Mr. Samon and not NBFA.  

“The students need to know what they are putting in their body,” he said. “If you put 87 (octane gas) in a Ferrari it isn’t going to run very well. The same goes for their bodies.”  

If schools can carve out one hour of time, one day a week, they can draw pre-teens and teens into important discussions about caloric needs, reading labels, balanced diets, dangers of fast foods, weight management, and lifelong eating disciplines, says Mr. Samon.  

Samon, who eats mostly a vegan diet himself, says there is no one right way to eat.  

“I am primarily plant based, so I usually do not eat animal products (meat, dairy, eggs) or anything containing animal products,” he said. “This is a personal choice and not something I teach as the "right" way to eat or anything like that, it's just one of the possible diets that are out there.  I find that eating plant based allows me to eat more food per sitting, feel more satiated, and also helps to keep me lean and supports my active lifestyle.”  

In conjunction with the new emphasis on diet at NBFA, the school has formed a Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC).   

A SHAC is a school board appointed advisory group of individuals who represent different segments of the community. By law, a majority of the members must be persons who are parents of students enrolled in the district and who are not employed by the district.   

Parents will help make important decisions regarding NBFA's school wellness policy, recess times and other such health-related items.   

Hands-on Learning with Mr. Samon

To join or learn more information contact Todd Daigle, NBFA's Food Service Supervisor, at tdaigle@nbfacademy.org or (203) 384-2897.