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Cultivating Healthy Learners: Student Nutrition & the Human Body

Cultivating Healthy Learners: Student Nutrition & the Human Body

There’s a certain power that comes from knowing how your body works. Like a mechanic and a prized hot-rod, when we learn about the human body — how our muscles move, why our cells divide — we’re not only better able to diagnose what’s wrong when our systems aren’t operating correctly, but we’re able to better those systems.

Just like how you can’t change the oil in your car without first learning how to do it (and more importantly, why you should change your oil), learning about our bodies is the first step towards bettering ourselves, both physically and mentally. Being that it’s National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, there’s never been a better time to review why it’s so important for students to have a working knowledge of the human body, especially when it comes to something as simple as nutrition. As one of the largest factors in maintaining a fit life, nutrition is just as important as getting up and getting active.

So, why it’s so important for learners to understand how their bodies work?

Why Students Should Learn about the Human Body

It’s a fairly simple question, and one that echoes in the minds of frustrated math students around the world: “Why do I need to know this?” Well, to put it simply, biology is the study of living things. If you’re reading this, you’re a living thing, and in order to learn about yourself, you need to start by learning how your body works, knowledge that begins with the word Homeostasis.

Homeostasis refers to the ability of the body or a cell to seek and maintain a condition of equilibrium or stability within its internal environment when dealing with external changes. In humans, homeostasis happens when the body regulates body temperature in an effort to maintain an internal temperature around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. (Biology Online.)

Our bodies are made up of many different systems, with each system interacting to provide our bodies with a stable internal environment. When all systems are running smoothly, the body moves and regulates normally. But when even one of these systems is down, our body loses its equilibrium. We feel sick, out of balance, and in the worse case scenarios, we need medical attention, fast. By studying biology and understanding the importance of homeostasis, we’re able to better maintain that internal equilibrium.

Now, while biology makes its own great case as to why it’s important to know how the human body works, it hasn’t answered why there’s a necessity for biology’s inclusion in the classroom.

Studying biology makes students better learners.

Just like the mechanic, once a student understands how their body works, how their systems interact to maintain homeostasis, they can apply that knowledge towards bettering themselves and their minds.

Making Students Healthier Learners

There are countless ways that a working knowledge of human biology leads to a healthier life, but to better understand one of the reasons, let’s take a look at what we put in our mouths.

Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of healthy living, and one of the easiest to regulate. When a human eats, they are providing their body with the fuel it needs to maintain its systems. From powering each cell to nourishing the brain, nutrition plays a major role in how well a body functions. When that body isn’t getting the right type of fuel, it doesn’t function as well, and visa versa. When a body is getting the nutrients it needs, it’s able to perform at peak levels.

To the student who doesn’t know that their body needs specific nutrients to perform as intended, their knowledge of nutrition probably only goes as far as understanding that it’s good to eat good foods. While that student might understand that what they eat matters, they might not know that their diet directly affects how they learn or how their body moves. They haven’t made the conscious connection that, on a microscopic level, their choice of fast food over healthy food is a choice to fuel their cells improperly — which makes their body run poorly. To continue with the analogy, it’s like putting mud in your gas tank instead of rocket fuel.

When students can make this nutritional connection, they’re able to make decisions that not only help them maintain a healthy body but help them build better brains. According to Wilder Research:

Recent studies have demonstrated that nutrition affects students’ thinking skills, behavior, and health, all factors that impact academic performance. Research suggests that diets high in trans and saturated fats can negatively impact learning and memory, nutritional deficiencies early in life can affect the cognitive development of school-aged children, and access to nutrition improves students’ cognition, concentration, and energy levels.

For example, one study found that 5th grade students with less nutritious diets performed worse on a standardized literary assessment (Florence, Asbridge, & Veugelers, 2008). Another study discovered that 5th grade students who ate more fast food fared worse on math and reading scores (Li & O’Connell, 2012). Similarly, a study that analyzed a healthy eating campaign that banned junk food from schools and introduced healthier, freshly prepared school meals found that participating students scored higher on English and science tests than students who did not
take part in the campaign (Belot & James, 2009).

Nutrition also indirectly impacts school performance. Poor nutrition can leave students’ susceptible to illness or lead to headaches and stomachaches, resulting in school absences (Brown, Beardslee, & Prothrow-Stith, 2008).

 

It’s only a small sliver of human biology, but learning about nutrition proves a critical example of why it’s so important for students to possess a working knowledge of the human body. By learning why nutrition is important and how, on a biological level, what you eat affects your body and mind, students can leap from “it’s good to eat good foods” to “I know why my body needs me to eat well.” By understanding the mechanisms at work, they can apply their knowledge towards improving their health, ultimately becoming better learners.

By learning how their bodies work, students can improve their health, fitness, knowledge retention and learning capabilities.


The Science of the Human Body

As educators and life-long learners ourselves, at PCS Edventures, we understand how important it is for students to know how their bodies work, which is why we developed The Science of the Human Body Enrichment Camp.   

Intended to be implemented as part of after school and summer learning STEM programs, all PCS Edventures Enrichment Camps come with all the materials and curriculum you need to lead stimulating, authentic and out-of-the-box activities proven to engage students of all levels. With 12 one-hour lessons and open-ended extensions, each Enrichment Camp introduces fun and interactive learning into any educational setting.

Every PCS Enrichment Camp follows a similar teaching structure, with the package holding everything an instructor needs to start an authentic STEMventure. Developed to be implemented into any learning environment, these camps were designed to be approachable by any instructor. From a seasoned teacher to an after school helper, the Enrichment Camps do all the work, allowing instructors to focus solely on facilitating learning.

An Enrichment Camp is composed of 12 lessons, each designed to last about one hour. You can use one a day for twelve days or clump them together to use in longer blocks. Lessons can also be broken apart and worked in throughout the course of a school year.

 

The beginning of each day’s lesson includes a quick overview of the day:

  • STEM CONNECTIONS: The specific topics in the lesson connected to Science, Technology, Engineering or Math. Science and Engineering topics match the Disciplinary Core Ideas of the Next Generation Science Standards and Math topics are drawn from the Domains of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.
  • DURATION: How long the lesson is designed to last. Each lesson is designed to last about 60 minutes and can be extended with the ideas generated at the end of each section.
  • MATERIALS: A list of supplies needed for the day
  • SCHEDULE: A list of the day’s activities in order and with estimated times for each part.
  • OBJECTIVE: A brief performance goal for each lesson.
  • PREP: A quick rundown of any preparation to take care of ahead of time.

The activities for each day all share a similar flow:

  • Introduction: a short set of instructions for the beginning of each day of camp.
  • Activities: the step-by-step directions and guidelines for the day’s learning objectives.
  • Wrap Up: a debrief discussion that revisits initial ideas and what was covered in the lesson.
  • Check for Understanding: 2-3 short assessment questions to wrap up the day.
  • Extensions: optional activities to extend the day’s lesson.

 

Exploring the Camp

Keying in on an interactive, authentic approach to human biology, The Science of the Human Body Camp lets students learn the inner workings of the body through engaging, fast-paced activities. Providing learn-by-doing experiences, students begin to unravel the mysteries of the human body through activities that get them up and moving, such as measuring heart rate and approximating energy expenditure after running for a minute.

Created for students in grades 4-6, this camp has learners discover the importance of refueling with proper nutrition, teaching them that maintaining health and fitness is a lifelong endeavor, but one that leads to a happier life.

Covering some of the body’s most important systems, this camp teaches about homeostasis by exploring topics like: bones, muscles, joints, the heart and lungs, guts, nerves, ears and eyes, skin, and most importantly, the mind.

To get a better idea of how The Science of the Human Body Camp introduces human biology curriculum in new, engaging ways, let’s take a look at Day 4 of the program. In the camp’s fourth lesson, students explore the circulatory system’s role in maintaining a homeostatic environment through three heart-pumping activities.

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When students know how their bodies work, they know how to make them perform better. From making the right nutritional choices to understanding why our hearts beat the way they do, learning about human biology is the first step in leading a healthy life. Once a student understands how their body works to maintain homeostasis, they can apply that knowledge towards bettering themselves and their minds.

To find out more about what The Science of the Human Body can do for your classroom or to discover our long list of other Enrichment Camps, click on the buttons below.

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Resources
Biology Online. (n.d.). Homeostasis. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from https://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Homeostasis
Wilder Research. (2014, January). Nutrition and Students’ Academic Performance. Retrieved May 10, 2018, from https://www.wilder.org/Wilder-Research/Publications/Studies/Fueling Academic Performance - Strategies to Foster Healthy Eating Among Students/Nutrition and Students' Academic Performance.pdf