Students at West Valley City School are spending the school year thinking about one question: How do my choices affect my health and wellness?
History teacher John Adams said the school, which serves fifth- through eighth-graders, chooses an overarching theme every year that guides the curriculum. Last year, they studied rights and responsibilities, which took them into subjects like civilian scientists, child labor laws, the civil rights movement, women’s rights, environmental rights.
This year, the school selected health and wellness, given the current rates of childhood obesity in America.
“We felt like it was a worthy topic,” Adams said.
During the first trimester, students studied food. Jaymee Finke, an eighth-grader, did her project on genetically modified organisms (GMO) and the economy. Medina Ibrahimovic, another eighth-grader, worked on a project exploring the mind-body connection in taekwondo.
Teachers give them guiding questions they must answer in their projects. And there is more than one project that focuses on the theme.
Adams said in history class, students learned about the history of food – from hunting and gathering through the modern industrial era.
In science, they studied the digestive system and how our bodies get energy from the food we eat. In language arts, they discuss family traditions, cultural traditions and why people eat what they do. In math, they kept food journals, keeping track of what they ate and the calories they consumed. They spent time looking at food labels and even explored the nutritional values and ingredients of some of their favorite fast-food restaurants.
“It’s fun learning about what you’re eating and how it affects you,” Finke said.
Adams said they also took a look at the advertising surrounding Initiative 522, the proposed state law that would have labeled genetically modified foods. They watched the pro and against commercials, researched the subject on their own and discussed how they would vote.
Last month, the school held a fitness fair to introduce students to new activities, such as taekwondo, ballroom dancing, self-defense, gymnastics and Zumba.
“My sister really liked the Zumba,” Finke said. There was even a room to learn to make healthy snacks.
Ibrahimovic said she helped teach the taekwondo class.
This trimester, they are discussing fitness, looking into the history of the medical science of the ancient Egyptians, the Greek Olympics, and the Roman gladiators.
Later this trimester, they will hold their own Winter Olympics and during the third trimester, they will have a Renaissance fair, including medieval warriors.
During the last trimester of this school year, students will learn about mental wellness, look at psychology and how the brain works. They will talk about Eastern, holistic medicine, and Western, diagnostic medicine and how doctors are now blending the two.
For Ibrahimovic, she appreciates that what she is learning in class is relevant to the outside world.
“(We want to) teach them to be creative problem-solvers out in the community,” Adams said.