and coping with stress and fatigue. “What you’re putting into your body might have an effect when you get to that last period of the day. You’re tired now—well, what did you eat beforehand?” He asks his students whether they are making good choices when they buy meals or snacks. He also tries to take advantage of the ability of computers and cell phones to deliver information from reliable sources to his students almost instantaneously. “That’s the world we live in now.” Not all students have cell phones, and they typically cannot use them in class, but most have access to cell phones after school, and many apps exist that can help students plan their eating and physical activity. “If I give the first person in here a dollar to tell me the saturated fat content in a Big Mac, we’d have 50 phones out and you’d have it in 30 seconds. Our students should be able to access that information and understand what it means.”
The health curriculum contains a lot of material and a lot to get done, Dane emphasized. Nutrition education needs to be integrated into other parts of the curriculum, including the Common Core standards, to be effective. His school has one classroom unit devoted to nutrition, covering 13 or 14 days, and Dane covers nutrition education during his weight-lifting unit and mental health unit, but many schools spend less time on nutrition education. Dane is part of a professional learning cohort at his school that is focused on fitness and nutrition and includes about 25 members, including teachers, librarians, and special education instructors. The group has looked at issues such as vending machines, the school lunch program, special events, and bake sales. “We’re taking a lot of research that is out there and bringing it back to the students.”
Other health issues at schools also require attention, such as special initiatives at Dane’s school on binge drinking and mental health, which a school risk behavior survey revealed to be problems. Socioeconomic issues are also “huge,” said Dane. Inexpensive foods may not be healthy, but many students rely on them. In addition, students come from many different cultures, some of which have an emphasis on foods that can contribute to obesity.
Progress will require collaboration among many different groups, Dane concluded, including national groups like the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. “There has to be a partnership among schools, among families, and certainly among various agencies that will have a say in whatever might be done.”