Healthy Eating & Exercise Activities for Fourth and Fifth Grade Students
Each school year students should be introduced to good health habits. Teaching activities on health for 4th and 5th grade must have particular emphasis on healthy eating, growth and development, personal safety and substance abuse. Students will develop an understanding that adherence to good health principles will enhance their lives and help to combat serious health issues they may encounter in the future.
- Introduce the students to There's Some Sky in this Pie by Jan Pienkowski and discuss how the ending of the story fits in with a unit on healthy eating. Ask students to make posters showing the island and all the healthy food and drink that was on it.
- Show the class the book Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert. This is a book for younger children. Invite your students to make an alphabet book for younger students using their own ideas for healthy food. Discuss with them how to make it interesting by using bright, colorful illustrations and a minimum number of words on each page. When the booklets are complete, you may like to invite a kindergarten or grade one class in and have the students partner up and share these books.
- Ask your students to keep a Food Diary for a week. They should record what they ate at each meal and each snack. At the end of the week, make a class bar graph showing fruit, vegetables, candy, meat, and fast food items. The items could be added to the graph anonymously so that there is no "finger pointing" at individual students. Analyze the results to see if your class eats healthily or to see if the emphasis is more on fast food items? Discuss with the students how to make simple changes in their diets e.g. an apple instead of a candy bar.
- Ask students to bring in one food item each. Examine the labels on each item. Explain, and then identify, the content information - ingredients, calories, fat content, salt, etc. Invite students to draw a can or package of food. Put a label on it showing the information about this particular food item. Invite each student to share his or her invention and tell whether it is a healthy food and explain why or why not.
Growth and Development
Discuss how our bodies change as we grow. Invite students to make their own timelines with illustrations showing their development from a newborn baby until the present time. Yearly increments would be a good starting point. They may wish to elicit the help of their parents who would be able to tell them when they took their first step or spoke their first word, etc. The timelines should be on large paper scrolls so that the students can add photos.
Discuss with the students that as we grow older we may experience stress within our families or with friends. Talk about how to deal with these pressures. Invite students to write a poem or a rap identifying what characteristics make for good relationships in families or between friends (Honesty, trust, caring, thinking of others, respect are some ideas.)
One of the biggest problems facing students is bullying. As teachers, we need to emphasize over and over how bullying and excluding other students can badly affect the feelings and reactions of those children. Invite a local spokesperson in to talk to the students about bullying. Read stories and books that show the effects of bullying.
Book suggestions to accompany some of these teaching activities for 4th and 5th grade health:
- Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie de Paola. This is a book that appeals to very young children to early teens and could easily be tied in with the movie or the book about Billy Elliot. It emphasizes that it is OK to be different.
- Thank you, Lucky Stars by Beverly Donofrio. This book deals with fourth grade bullying.
- Jake Drake Bully Buster by Andrew Clements. This book demonstrates how a boy becomes a cool kid dealing with bullies.
Divide your class into small groups and ask them to put together a skit showing a bullying situation and how they would deal with it. If students are reticent about this, invite them to make simple stick puppets and present their scenario in a puppet play.
Personal safety also includes keeping oneself safe in everyday situations such as bicycle riding. Admittedly, it is not very "cool" in grades four and five to go over the basic road safety rules. However, you could organize a Bicycle Rodeo and set up various skill testing courses in the schoolyard. Invite a police officer to come in and do a safety check on the bicycles. Award points for each activity and at the end of the Rodeo, present the student with the most points a trophy.
Discuss with students the word addiction. Ask them to identify substances that anyone can become addicted to (tobacco, alcohol, street drugs).
Invite them to make posters describing the short and long-term effects of second-hand smoke. Who does it harm? (Babies and children in cars, anyone living in a house with a smoker, pets that inhale the second-hand smoke, etc.)
The school environment can greatly influence the attitudes of students and can have a positive effect on the way that they deal with health and safety. If you have any other ideas for promoting health public school please post a comment.