With new technology and meditation on the cards, it’s clear that schools are getting serious about student health
Obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are on the rise. And with various local health initiatives and global documentaries stressing this dangerous increase, it’s becoming more apparent that we need a wake-up call to keep our health on track.
But in order to instill good habits, it’s important to start learning about health from a young age.
We speak with residents who are rethinking health in a creative way for the youngest members of our community.
An apple a day
When it comes to health, one parent found that getting kids to take charge was the answer.
Parent Sam Turner found that kids at the British School Al Khubairat were bringing cookies instead of carrots and started sowing the seeds for a school initiative.
“Although I always make sure my child’s lunchbox is balanced, it turns out all lunchboxes are not created equal,” she laughs.
Inspired by UK schools, Sam introduced Fruit First, a scheme that makes it compulsory for kids to snack on fruit at first break time.
When promoting the project, Sam wanted to engage kids in the discussion:
“Getting parents involved is difficult, so we focused on kids to get them talking about their health,” explains Sam.
“We introduced the topic of fruit as a healthy option through assemblies, a poster competition and other methods to get them excited. Pester power definitely works!”
The scheme swept the school and Sam believes that “just this change of one piece of fruit a day is a huge positive”.
A slice of what’s to come
Watching the waistline will take on a new meaning with some technology geared towards kids.
Faisal Al Hammadi and Hamad Al Shurafa developed Slices, with the aim of shaking up school meals to provide food that’s healthy and appealing to kids.
After winning a grant, the pair plans to develop their big idea with wearable technology to get both kids and parents involved with nutrition.
“We plan to create a smart watch so kids can use technology to pay for school meals,” explains Faisal. “But it’s more than that: all purchases will sync to a web portal that parents can check. It will also have a pedometer and activity monitor.”
“With the data, we’ll be able to create personalised nutrition programmes.”
The pair also runs a series of farm visits, cooking classes and seminars to get kids thinking more about where their food comes from.
Mini zen masters
Educational bodies are now realising the value of holistic health in students, too.
Pupils at Al Yasmina School have been attending meditation sessions two to three times a week after research showed its positive effects on a child’s overall wellbeing.
School counsellor Ashley Costello says it helps youngsters develop emotional and mental awareness at an early age.
“It calms the children down, and they’re better able to manage their emotions.
“In the playground during a misunderstanding, the child stays composed instead of reacting instantly. If they’re having a bad day, meditation can help them feel relaxed,” explains Ashley.
Teacher Georgia Hall adds: “We make the classroom calm, switch the lights off and ask students to find a comfy space. I put on a CD of meditation music and guide them with breathing techniques. Then we’ll have a discussion to evaluate how they feel about the session.”
Getting kids to sit still for 40 minutes took some time to master, but students eventually warmed up to the idea.
Ashely adds, “They improved academically, and teachers and parents noticed an improvement on the children’s focus.”