Strawberry Mansion: Nutrition Lesson For Kids at L.P. Hill Elementary School

My Plate replaced the food pyramind which had been used for nearly 20 years prior.]

“I am green on the outside, red and juicy on the inside,” Laura Alminde said as she quizzed Lacey Yoder’s first grade class at L.P. Hill Elementary School. “I have seeds but you don’t want to eat them. What am I?”

The students looked around at each other, a little puzzled, until someone got the courage to shout, “Watermelon!”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Alminde responded as she moved on to the next fruit — cantaloupe. The kids had a little harder time with that one.

Laura Alminde played a nutrition game with the students.
Laura Alminde played a nutrition game with the students.

Alminde is an Eat Right Now educator for the School District of Philadelphia. She graduated from Temple University in 2007 with a degree in Public Health and started as a nutrition educator two years ago. Her favorite part of her degree was teaching, which led her to take different internships in the educational field including one at the American Red Cross in the youth education department.

She’s responsible for six schools throughout the district including L.P. Hill Elementary School. Alminde spends Mondays in the office doing paper work and the other four days out in the field working with the kids. Being out in the schools is her favorite part about her job. She loves interacting with the kids and seeing them grow.

“Can you guys name a vegetable?” Alminde asked.

One young boy shouted, “Cheese!”

A few kids giggled when Alminde responded, “No, silly. Cheese is in a different food group that we will get to in a few.”

Foods are no longer grouped in the familiar food pyramid. Instead they are presented in a plate divided into different sized parts. The United States Department of Agriculture decided over the summer to make the switch to the plate for several reasons.

The plate stresses the importance of vegetables and fruits by having half the plate filled with them, which translated to half one’s daily diet. The other half contains protein and grains with a small section for dairy. The design of the plate also promotes smaller portions while the pyramid did not put a limit on portion sizes.

My Plate replaced the food pyramind which had been used for nearly 20 years prior.

While Alminde conducted her lesson, she had the food plate hanging behind her on the chalkboard the entire time as a constant reminder for the kids.

As humorous as the cheese comment may have seemed, it shows that students have a ways to go before what they learn during their nutrition lesson sticks with them.

“I would hope that they are taking things home and they are sharing things with their families,” Alminde said. “We do have parent workshops that we do in the schools, too. So it’s an opportunity for the parents to try what the kids are tasting and to demonstrate some type of meal and cooking with the parents.”

Despite the attempt to include the parents during back-to-school night, report card conferences and other workshops, only a few come out to participate.

“Even though we don’t get that many people to come out,” Alminde explained. “We do have big open discussions with the parents who do come which is always nice.”

The nutrition lessons are not solely focused on food. Alminde does her best to include exercise in her lesson plan. Even though space inside the classroom is limited, she still gets the students to move.

Students are encouraged to avoid junk food and choose healthier snacks.
Students are encouraged to avoid junk food and choose healthier snacks.

“Now we’re walking up to the farm,” said Alminde. “Now bend down and pull out some carrots and put them in your basket.”

The kids acted out the motions behind their desk with big smiles on their faces. Next Alminde told them to pick some apples on a tree much taller than them. Some of the kids tried to jump as high as they could to get the imaginary apples.

“Are you ready for the pumpkins?’ Alminde asked.

“Yes!” the students responded.

The entire class bent down to pick up the imaginary pumpkin. They all pretended like they were actually struggling to pick up a 50 lb pumpkin. There were a few jokesters in the class who required help from their peers to pick up their imaginary pumpkin.

“They love Ms. Laura,” said Julianne Stoll, a first grade teacher whose class had their nutrition lesson after Yoder’s class did. “It’s nice that they get to see where all the food comes from and they’re being exposed the nutrition. It’s really fun to see the kids find out how healthy foods can incorporate in to their diets, too.”

Alminde and her nutrition lessons expose the students to life lessons that are essential to their developing bodies and minds. Her lessons leave a positive impression about health, nutrition and exercise on the kids that makes them look forward to every lesson.

“The students love nutrition lessons, they really do,” Yoder said. “They certainly love and look forward to when Ms. Laura comes for nutrition.”

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