Learning what ‘Our Heart Needs’

NEW ULM – Heart health involves healthy eating habits and a physically active lifestyle – but also, spiritual, social-emotional and community-engagement components.

Students from kindergarten through sixth grade in St. Anthony Elementary School learned this lesson in a fun, engaging way, by plunging into a week-long learning experience dubbed Our Heart Needs…, Feb. 11-14.

After St. Anthony Elementary received a grant from a popular children’s health program called DAAN and the Heart of New Ulm programs, school staff used the funds to create a week of learning all about staying healthy, explained St. Anthony Principal Shelly Bauer.

The goal was to help children make sound, healthy decisions about eating and exercise, said Bauer.

Each day of the week had a theme that focused on a different aspect of the heart, Bauer explained.

The Monday theme was “Our Heart Needs Friends.” The students participated in a prayer service to kick off the week. Activities included skits on what it means to be a good friend. The heart activity focused on how doing the right thing helps hearts become closer to God. Students made friendship bracelets and valentines for Guatemalan children.

The Tuesday theme was “Our Heart Needs Healthy Food.” Students learned about the “My Plate” program and appropriate serving sizes. A local dietician made a healthy breakfast; and the students played Breakfast Bingo and made and tasted healthy snacks.

Wednesday’s theme was “Our Heart Needs Jesus.” The students heard a guest speaker from a parish-supported mission in Guatemala and learned about the local Food Shelf and the good it does in the community. The students participated in activities with the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus and observed Ash Wednesday.

The Thursday theme, “Our Heart Needs Exercise,” completed the week, with community members on-site leading students in a variety of activities. The activity stations, throughout campus, included Tae Kwon Do, yoga, dance, relays, Pictionary, extreme obstacle course, “making a new path on the walking track,” and more.

The week afforded opportunities to foster community collaborations, school and community members worked together, said Bauer. “We’d like to thanks the New Ulm Medical Center and the community – we couldn’t have done it without them,” said Bauer.

Bauer added an interesting observation: after nurses and nutritionists worked with students to teach them how to make and choose healthy snacks, replace treats with healthy versions, and other healthy eating information, participation in the breakfast program and sales of fruit yogurt parfait – a healthier snack alternative – hit record highs. The students heard the message, noted Bauer.

The initiative got students excited about their health and showed them they can take control of it, summed up Bauer.

The project tied well into the health and phy ed, science and religious curricula, she added.

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