We typically have a lesson on heart disease prevention during February to coordinate with our Jump Rope for Heart event. One year, the topic hit too close to home, as one of our coaches had quadruple bypass surgery during the holidays. His recovery would take about 3 months, if everything went well. We were shocked because he always played with the students, ran their laps with them, and had been at that school for 27 years.
I set up a meeting with my other colleague and we decided to teach the heart disease lesson in January instead that year. It worked out well because this way the students would be able to start the year off on a healthy note!
We decided to let the students know what had happened to our colleague. The students were in shock, and were devastated to hear that he would be out for so long. Our first step was to introduce the anatomy of the heart, including blood vessels, arteries, capillaries and we also showed diagrams. Despite our efforts, the students weren’t quite grasping the whole picture, so we decided to create our own diagrams! I went out and bought clear candy cane tubing, like the ones that M&M’s come in during Christmas. Next, I got food coloring and Crisco shortening from home. I added different amounts of the Crisco into the clear tubing and connected the tubing to a plastic heart. My colleague and I slowly poured food coloring into the tubing, simulating blood circulation. WOW! The students’ faces immediately illuminated with the AHA! They wanted to know, “Is that what happened to Coach Garcia’s heart?” One student even mentioned that, “in one heart the blood runs fast like the freeway, and in the other heart it looks like there is a traffic jam on the freeway!”
We then made lists of possible foods that were high in fat and cholesterol. We addressed food labels and focused on sodium, cholesterol, and saturated, trans, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The students brought food labels from home and we compared them in groups at school. We then made menus and the students suggested ways how we could substitute or change certain ingredients to make the food healthier. Finally, we concluded by playing games like Veins & Arteries, Hospital Tag, Heart Attack Tag, and Grocery Shopping Relays.
The students not only learned the heart prevention lesson, they also learned how to be more aware of the food they eat. Now, if you walk into our cafeteria you will see students checking the food labels on the lunch food or foods they bring from home. The parents have approached me and said, “You know Coach Armendariz, we no longer salt our food, we pepper them”. Another parent mentioned that grocery shopping would take 1 hour, and now it’s 2 hours, since the students are reading the food labels in the store. It’s great to hear that students are practicing good habits that will help them in the future.