Learning to Calm Fear

Lesson Overview

Some things in the world are scary. It would be nice if you could just make those scary things and scary feelings go away, but sometimes you can’t. Some stuff is beyond your control. What you can control, however, is your response to fear and the ways you take care of yourself during these scary times.

This lesson focuses on what fear feels like, different ways people respond to it, and steps anyone can take to help manage fear and learn to live with scary things.

What is fear? Fear is a response to things that scare you. It can be helpful because it can alert you to danger. It can be harmful if you over react.

What does fear feel like? Fear feels different to each person, but there are some things that are pretty common:

  • Feeling fear in your body You may have a racing heart, dizziness, fast breathing, sweating or getting very cold (or both), tingling or weakness in arms or legs, upset stomach, pounding head or headache, blurry vision, or a rushing sound in your ears.
  • Feeling fear in your mind You may worry, have scary images or ideas, want to sleep or not be able to sleep, or lose your appetite.

What does fear make you do? Each person responds differently to different fears, but typically reactions fall into one of three categories: FIGHT, FLIGHT or FREEZE.

  • FIGHT—Sometimes fear makes you want to fight back against the thing that you’re afraid of.
  • FLIGHT—Sometimes you just want to run away.
  • FREEZE—Other times your body freezes up and you feel like you can’t or don’t want to move.

Activity

Fight, Flight, Freeze or Forget It

  1. Start with an introduction of what fear is, what it feels like, and the different ways people respond.
  2. Introduce the fight/flight/freeze response, talk about how sometimes you have a fear response that:
    • Helps you (For example: If you’re in a scary situation and you instinctively know to run away.)
    • Doesn’t actually fit with what’s happening (For example: You might feel like you need to run away when you’re at the doctor’s office to get a flu shot. A flu shot is something that is good for you, but a lot of people are afraid of shots.)
  3. Explain that you’re going to do an activity that helps young people learn how they respond to different situations that might be scary. You’re going to describe some different situations and for each one young people should make a face or gesture that goes with how they think they would respond—fight, flight, freeze, or forget it (meaning it isn’t something that would scare them.)
  4. Ask young people to practice each of these faces or gestures, one at a time in order:
    • Fight
    • Flight
    • Freeze
    • Forget it
  5. Start playing music while young people mill around the room. When you turn the music off, describe a potentially scary situation (nothing too scary for this activity as it is simply designed to get young people thinking, not to cause anxiety). After each song, talk a little bit with the young people about why they responded the way that they did, especially if there are differences among the group. Be very clear that there are no right or wrong responses, just differences and that this is an activity for learning about yourself, not for comparison or judging anyone else. Do the activity using the following scenarios:
    • A surprise test in school
    • A visit to the dentist
    • Having to give a speech
    • Singing a song in front of an audience
    • Being chased by a tiger
    • Being chased by a chipmunk
    • Getting a shot at the doctor’s office
    • An older student says something mean to you at school
    • You’re in a store and an alarm goes off; you don’t know what it means
    • You’re on a hike and you see a snake in front of you in the path
    • You hear on the radio that a big storm is headed your way
  6. Finally, facilitate a conversation about the activity as a whole. Suggested discussion questions:
    • What did you learn from this activity (about yourself, about how different people respond to fears)?
    • What surprised you?
    • When you feel scared and you respond—fight, flight, or freeze—what are things you do to help yourself feel better? (Talk about as many examples as young people are willing to share. Then transition to the next activity.)

Three Ways to Feel Better

Tell young people that you are going to learn about and practice three things they can do when they are feeling fear. These three actions can help them feel better even if they can’t make the scary thing go away. Describe each of them, one at a time, and practice as you go.

  1. Breathing exercises—Breathing comes so naturally that you can sometimes forget how important and powerful it is. Try this: Begin breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth. Breathe in twice as long as you breathe out (try counting to two as you breathe in and count to four as you breathe out). Keep breathing like this for several minutes. What do you notice about how this changes the way your body feels? The next time you are feeling fearful, try to remember to breathe like this.
  2. MeditationTry this meditation exercise and notice how it changes how your body feels. Meditating regularly can build “muscle memory” that will help you stay calm in the face of fear.
  3. Physical movement that can help you feel braveBeing brave usually doesn’t feel like it looks in movies or shows. Being brave means being willing to face things you’re afraid of. One way to learn bravery or courage—which is a similar word—is to do exercises that actually help you feel it in your body. Both cobras and elephants are great examples of brave animals and these stretches can help you channel them!

Exercise and Your Brain

Lesson Introduction & Overview

Recent research has found that exercise, particularly aerobic activity that involves an element of coordination, has benefits for young people that go far beyond fitness.

Aerobic activity is any physical activity that increases your heart rate and breathing. It helps improve your heart and lung fitness. Some examples include brisk walking, hiking, jogging/running, biking, swimming, rowing, jumping rope, dancing and aerobics class.

Physical activity has many benefits. In addition to helping build strong bones and muscles, regular physical activity can:

  • help maintain a healthy weight
  • reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, certain cancers and joint conditions
  • reduce levels of anxiety and stress
  • improve your self-esteem and confidence
  • help improve concentration and memory
  • help maintain good blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • give you an overall feeling of well-being
  • build endurance and increase your metabolism
  • improve your ability to do daily activities
  • help you relax and sleep better.

Studies have found that young people who participate in even 10 minutes of exercise before a test or other academic activity performed better on those tasks than young people who did not exercise. Other studies have found that young people who participate in physical activity consistently have more academic success than their peers who participate less.

For this lesson, the focus is on empowering young people to exercise regardless of their fitness baseline.

Activity

Session One

Ask young people a series of questions about exercise: Do they like it? What kinds of exercise do they do or do they know that other people do? What are some of the benefits of exercise?

Then introduce the Exercise-Brain Connection and highlight the following points:
• Exercise is good for your body; it helps keep your heart and other muscles strong, your organs working well and your bones healthy.
• Exercise is also good for your mood: exercising can help improve your mood by reducing stress and anxiety.
• Exercise is good for your brain! Not as many people know this, but exercise can help you focus, problem solve, and remember information and ideas.

Then explain that over the next week your class/group will be doing a research study of your own. Here are the steps:
• Each young person will receive a Your Brain After Exercise tracking sheet.
• For one week, young people should rate how well they think they performed on their homework or brain games and track whether or not they exercised beforehand.
• You can provide age-appropriate activities such as word finds, cryptograms, Sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles or online brain games. A simple internet search will provide a variety of resources!
• Encourage young people to exercise for at least 10 minutes sometimes before performing the task, and sometimes not.

Session 2

Ask young people to take out their tracking sheets. Talk about how the week went, what they noticed, what questions they have.

Then create a bar chart showing the results of your study:
• Your X-axis will have two variables: “Yes, I exercised before task” and “No, I did not exercise before task.”
• Your Y-axis will have five variables: the ratings on how they think they performed on their assignments.
• Find the average of all the ratings for times when they did at least 10 minutes of exercise and make that average the first bar.
• Find the average for all the ratings for times when they didn’t do at least 10 minutes of exercise and make that average the second bar.
• Talk about what the bar chart shows. Is there a difference? Why do you think that is so? Did you notice a difference for yourself between times when you exercised and when you didn’t?

Conclusion

Remind young people that research has shown that exercise has a positive impact on brain function and encourage them to make exercise part of their regular routine.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in EnglishSpanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can learn about exercise and the brain at home.

Noticing Walk and Reflection

Lesson Introduction & Overview

Young people take a walk and then reflect on what they saw, heard, thought about and felt during the walk. Three year olds are going to have a very different experience of this activity than eight year olds, so adjust your instructions and expectations accordingly.

Activity

  1. Prepare young people for the walk with the following explanation:
    1. Today we are going to go on a Noticing Walk. What do you think I might mean when I say, “Noticing Walk?” Let young people respond with what they saw, heard, thought about and felt during the walk.
    2. Describe the area in which you will walk. Ask them what they think they might notice in that place or space.
    3. Encourage young people to pay attention to (notice) their experiences, including what they see, hear, think about and feel during the walk. It’s okay for them to talk to each other about their experiences when walking, but they might be able to notice better if they are mostly quiet.
    4. Tell them that at the halfway point, you are going to ask for one minute of silence. During this time, you’ll keep walking but no one should be talking.
  2. Go on a short walk (ranging from 10-20 minutes), preferably outside, but inside is okay too.
  3. Every so often, remind them that the point of the walk is to be paying attention to sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings.
  4. Return to your classroom or home base and handout blank sheets of paper and crayons or markers. Ask young people to draw or write about something they noticed on the walk.
  5. After young people are done with coloring, ask them to share what they drew or wrote with the rest of the group.

Conclusion

A nice practice in mindfulness is gratitude. At the end of your activity, thank young people for participating and express your appreciation for some aspect of what happened.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in EnglishSpanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can go on a noticing walk at home.

Let’s Talk! Maximizing the Benefits of Family Mealtime

Lesson Introduction & Overview

There’s lots of talk in the world of parenting about the importance of connecting as a family at mealtime, with good reason. Research shows that some of the benefits can include:

  • better academic performance
  • higher self-esteem
  • greater sense of resilience
  • lower risk of substance abuse
  • lower risk of teen pregnancy
  • lower risk of depression
  • lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
  • lower rates of obesity

Very rarely do adults encourage young people to take the initiative when it comes to family dinner (or another meal); the focus is typically on parents. This lesson helps young people become leaders of positive family mealtime communication and provides them with tips and conversation starter ideas.

Activity

  1. Introduce the topic – Depending on the maturity of the youth, ask and talk about a few of the questions below:
    1. How many of you have dinner or other meals with your family three times a week? More than that? Less than that?
    2. What are some things you like about family mealtimes?
    3. What are some things you don’t like or wish were different about family mealtimes?
  2. Family mealtimes, away from distractions such as media, are important for a variety of reasons:
  • families that eat together regularly tend to be physically healthier
  • relationships between parents or guardians and young people tend to be stronger
  • young people do better in school
  • families talk about important topics that might not otherwise get talked about.

Explain to young people that they can be important leaders in their families. Young people can encourage their family to sit down to eat together and have important or fun conversations. The rest of this activity is one way to do that.

  1. Brainstorm conversation topics. Have them write their ideas on slips of paper. You can also distribute the Let’s Talk handout that is included with this lesson. They can use it to spark ideas or can cut it up and use it as is.
  2. Create “Let’s Talk – Conversation Starters” jars or boxes. Give young people time to decorate their jar or box. Distribute the Let’s Talk handout for youth to cut into strips along the dotted lines. Each youth can then fill his or her jar or box with the strips and take it home for his or her family to choose a strip from the jar or box and start talking!

Reflection – Ask young people the following questions:

  • What is their favorite food to have at a family meal?
  • Why is this meal their favorite?
  • Does it remind them of a special memory?
  • Is it cooked by someone they love?

Conclusion

This activity turns the tables, so to speak, when it comes to family mealtimes. It puts young people in the driver’s seat. Adults are not always used to thinking of young people as leaders in their families, but giving them small roles like this can help them strengthen connections with their families as well as build important social and emotional skills that will help them in other areas of their lives.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English and Spanish so that families can practice an attitude of gratitude at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Parent Resources

Keeping Clean When You’re A Preteen

Lesson Overview

Most kids know by age 8 or 9 that changes will start happening to their bodies as they get closer to being teenagers and then young adults. What a lot don’t know, however, is that there are also some changes they’ll need to make in how they care for themselves.

Parents, teachers, and other care givers spend quite a bit of time and energy helping kids learn basic hygiene when they are very young: how to wash hands and for how long, brushing teeth, coughing or sneezing into the elbow, and so on. This kind of teaching and coaching is a lot less common, though no less important, for older youth, especially as their bodies begin to change.

Introduction

When you go through puberty, a lot of physical changes happen. These changes mean that you will have to learn different ways to care for yourself.

Here are some common changes that affect both boys and girls.

  1. Body odor: There are certain sweat glands in your body that only become active once you’ve entered puberty. They produce oils that are different from the sweat you’re used to and can cause different smells, skin irritations and other potential concerns. Using some kind of deodorant or antiperspirant to deal with increase in body odor with help.
  2. Skin and Hair: More oils along with hormones can mean acne and other skin irritation. Acne is typically not caused by poor hygiene, but good hygiene can definitely help keep it in check. You may start to grow more hair, sometimes in places you don’t want it like armpits and pubic areas! Shaving and keeping body hair clean is important.
  3. Breath: Bad breath happens to people of all ages but it can be especially problematic if you are already self-conscious about your changing body. Brushing and flossing teeth twice each day can help keep bad breath in check.
  4. Pubic area: Changes happen to both boys and girls that can affect hygiene. Girls may experience vaginal discharge and will eventually begin menstruating (get their periods). Uncircumcised boys’ foreskins will retract. All boys will start experiencing wet dreams and more frequent erections. Make sure to bathe each day and have feminine hygiene products on hand.

Activity: Ice breaker – Growing Up

  1. Ask the students to mill around to music until you turn it off. When you stop it they should pair up with one other person. If there is an uneven number of students it’s OK to have groups of three.
  2. Have each person tell his or her partner what they wanted to be when they grew up when they were little. Give them a few minutes to talk about this.
  3. Repeat this several time and have them choose a different partner each time.
  4. After the ice breaker, convene the group and ask for a few examples of things people said. There will probably be some funny ones and some things that have changed as the students have matured.
  5. Introduce the topic by telling them that you are going to talk about a particular part of growing up and maturing: puberty.

Activity

  1. Write the word PUBERTY on a flip chart. Ask the students to tell you what other words come to mind when they hear it. Write all of these words and phrases on the flip chart. Summarize and clarify by telling them what puberty is:
    • According to the NIH (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) puberty is the time in life when a boy or girl becomes sexually mature. It is a process that usually happens between ages 10 and 14 for girls and ages 12 and 16 for boys.
    • A lot of physical changes happen during this time and affects boys and girls differently. Those changes mean that boys and girls will have to learn different ways to care for themselves.
  2.  Draw a stick figure or an outline of a body on a pieces of flip chart paper. Explain that you’re going to write and talk about different aspects of self-care using the image as a guide.
    • If you’re comfortable doing so, you can invite the students to help you by writing words or drawing images on the paper that connect to what you’re talking about.
    • Point out that different families have different norms about hygiene and that it’s important to be respectful of those differences.
    • There aren’t right or wrong answers to the topics you’re covering, but there is information that’s important for teens and preteens to know.
  3. Start with the head and face: Ask the students what changes might happen on their heads or faces during puberty. They will likely mention facial hair, acne, and maybe hair in general. You can draw all these things on the image, or write keywords nearby on the paper. This can be your opening to talk about:
    • Shaving: During puberty hair will being growing in new places, including armpits, pubic areas and the face.
      • People make different choices about shaving. In some cultures, shaving may be a standard practice, in others, shaving may be a more personal decision. It’s a good idea to ask someone with experience for guidance in what kind products to use when shaving, such as razors, shaving cream, and after care creams or lotions.
      • Girls may choose to begin shaving their legs, armpits and bikini area.
      • Also mention the myth that once a person starts shaving the hair in that area will grow back thicker and darker. That isn’t true. The stubble may at first be more noticeable because it’s prickly, but it will eventually go back to being how it was before shaving.
    • Acne: Most teens have some acne at some point during their teen years. This is caused mostly by an increase in certain oils.
      • Acne is typically not caused by poor hygiene, but there are things you can do that can help minimize the impact: Wash your face in the morning and at night with a gentle cleanser. Harsh soaps and scrubbing too hard can irritate the skin and make pimples worse.
      • Over-the-counter acne treatments can also be effective in moderation. If the acne is severe or is causing emotional distress, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
    • Hair: The same oils that causes acne may make your hair seem extra oily. Washing every day with a mild cleanser may help. Try not to scrub too hard or rub with a rough towel when drying. All of this can damage your hair and won’t help the problem you’re trying to solve.
    • Breath: Bad breath happens to people of all ages but it can be especially problematic if you are already self-conscious about your changing body. Brushing and flossing teeth twice each day can help keep bad breath in check.
  4. Then move to the mid-section of the body. Ask the students what changes might happen around their mid-section during puberty. They will likely mention body odor, hair growth or breast development, for girls. You can draw all these things on the image, or write keywords nearby on the paper. This can be your opening to talk about:
    • Deodorant: Armpits are an area that may need attention. Some teens, mostly girls, may choose to shave. You may want to start using some kind of deodorant or antiperspirant to deal with increase in body odor.
    • Pubic area/genitals: In general, it’s important to maintain good daily cleaning routines and to always wear clean underwear and avoid other tight fitting clothes (such as compression shorts) to prevent body odor as well as skin irritation, and that special products such as douches are unnecessary
      • Boys: If they are uncircumcised, they will need to start cleaning their penises. As he grows, the foreskin will loosen on its own. This can take three or more years. The foreskin can be pulled back so the penis can be cleaned properly.
      • Girls: They will get their periods at that average age of 12 and will need to start using tampons or pads. Girls don’t need to use special products such as douches.
      • Both: Hair will start to grow in the pubic area.
  5. Lastly, talk about the hands and feet. Ask the students what changes might happen with their hands and feet during puberty. They will likely mention bad smells. You can draw all these things on the image, or write keywords nearby on the paper. This can be your opening to talk about:
    • Hands and feet: They may start to notice that their palms are sweaty and/or their feet are sweaty and smell bad (or their shoes do). This is caused by changes and increases in the kinds of oils their bodies are producing.
    • Encourage students to wash and dry their hands regularly and wash their feet when they shower or bathe.
    • Socks should be changed regularly, at least every day, and it’s good to let feet air out when you can.
    • Pay attention to whether shoes are getting smelly. If so, wash them if you can, or consider buying odor repelling inserts.

Conclusion

Thank the students for their participation in a sensitive conversation. Let them know that puberty can be intimidating but that everyone goes through it and if they have questions or are having a hard time they should be sure to talk to you or another adult they trust.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish so that families can continue discussing the changes that come with puberty at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Acne – Self care

Zits at my age? Why?

Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand ingredients in energy drinks and sports drinks that may be unhealthful for children and teens. The youth will compare the caffeine levels of various drinks and create a warning label with some facts about their effects.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information. This can be shared with young people during your discussions.

Ads for sports drinks and energy drinks are hard to miss these days. It’s not uncommon to see children drinking these beverages that are formulated for fully grown, serious athletes who are doing intense training and competition. Unfortunately, many of these drinks are not good for children and can be harmful.

Introduction

  1. Ask the youth what they know about sports drinks and energy drinks.
  2. Show one example of a sports drink and one example of an energy drink. Define “sports drink” and “energy drink” using the information below.
    Sports drinks: These beverages have carbohydrates, minerals and electrolytes. Many of them also have added coloring and flavoring.
    Sports drinks are meant to replace water and electrolytes lost during exercise. These beverages can be helpful to athletes who are doing intense activity. For children, they are usually just a source of extra calories that are not needed.
    Energy drinks: These beverages may have similar ingredients as sports drinks. They also have stimulants such as caffeine and guarana.
    Energy drinks often have much more caffeine per serving than other beverages. This increases the chances of having too much caffeine, which can have dangerous and sometimes lasting harmful effects.
  3. Ask the youth if they can name any other sports drinks or energy drinks. Explain that these drinks are often marketed towards young people but may contain ingredients that are unhealthful for children and teens.
  4. Caffeine in children can cause side effects such as:
    • an increase in heart rate
    • high blood pressure
    • problems sleeping
    • anxiety and nervousness.When children drink a lot of energy drinks and then stop drinking them, they can go through caffeine withdrawal. This can cause side effects such as:
    • headache
    • fatigue (tiredness)
    • decreased alertness
    • irritability
    • trouble concentrating
    • muscle pain or stiffness.
  5. Most energy and sports drinks are also very acidic. This means that drinking these beverages could cause damage to tooth enamel.
  6. Optional: If appropriate for your group, distribute the handout Energy Drinks: What You Need To Know. Allow young people time to read about this topic before proceeding to the activities.

Activity: Caffeine Counts

  1. Organize the youth into teams of three or four. Ask each group to use the Caffeine Counts worksheet to identify and record the following information for several different sports drinks and energy drinks. Include some sodas, other beverages, and even other products for comparison.
    • name of the product
    • serving size
    • amount of caffeine.
  2. Ask the youth to choose some of their favorite products or ones they have in their home or ones they have heard of from advertisements. They can use the Energy Drinks: What You Need To Know handout and/or  the Caffeine Informer database to find information. You can also bring in labels or containers from home or, if you give them enough notice, ask them to do so.
  3. Talk about what the young people found. Were there surprises? Which products had the highest levels of caffeine? Based on what they’ve learned about how caffeine affects bodies, how safe do they think these products are?

Activity: Caffeine Warning Labels

  1. Explain that there are people who think that caffeine products should come with warning labels and are trying to get a law passed to require it. These would be similar to those found on cigarettes or alcohol.
  2. In the same or different small groups, have the young people create what they think would be a good warning label to put on caffeine-containing products. They don’t have to agree that having a label is necessary, but if a law were to be passed to that effect, ask them what they think the warnings should say.
  3. Ask them to share and describe their labels.

Conclusion

Remind young people that companies that market and sell packaged foods are very good at figuring out how to convince people to buy their products. This doesn’t mean that all packaged foods are bad, but it does mean that consumers should be cautious and pay attention to ingredients to make sure they know what they’re putting in their bodies.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families work together to spot unhealthful amounts of caffeine in the beverages of young people.

Additional Instructor Resources

Self-Esteem and Body Image Activities for Kids

Self-Esteem Lesson Plan Overview

This lesson helps young people reflect on the messages they get and give (including to themselves) about personal worth and value. They learn steps they can take to feel confident and good about themselves.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson plan, you may want to review the following information about self-esteem. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

  • Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. These feelings can change as things in your life change, such as going to a new school or becoming a brother or sister.
  • Self-esteem can be positive (you love, respect, and trust yourself) or negative (you feel insecure and helpless).
  • Body image is part of self-esteem. It is how you feel about how you look. Body image also includes how you think others see you.
  • Having a positive body image means that you:
    • feel comfortable in your body and with the way you look
    • feel good about the things your body can do
    • feel empowered to take good care of your physical health.
  • It is common to struggle with body image, no matter who you are, but there are things you can do to help yourself feel good.

Introduction

Ask young people to brainstorm a list of ways people are different from each other. Include physical differences (such as eye color) and non-physical (such as favorite kinds of music). Make a list on a whiteboard or flipchart. Things on the list might include:

  • likes/dislikes
  • abilities (some people are good at math, some at writing, some at art, some at sports, some at music, etc.)
  • interests
  • height
  • weight
  • body build (slender, muscular, etc.)
  • complexion
  • hair colors/type (straight, curly, etc.)
  • eye color
  • preferences

Point out that some things we can change through effort (by studying, practicing, learning), some things are out of our power to change (height, race, who our parents are), and some will change over time (our natural hair color, our joints and muscles, our experiences).

Body Image Activity for Kids

  1. Ask your students to list on a piece of paper or in a journal, three things they like about themselves and three things they are good at. These can be the same things. Ask for volunteers to share examples of what they wrote. Write down these things on a whiteboard or flipchart. Point out that everyone has strengths and that these strengths are part of what make us unique and special. The fact that we are all different is also part of what makes the world interesting.
  2. Ask if anyone has ever been teased or picked on for something that makes them unique or picked on someone else for being unique. How did that feel? How did you deal with the situation? How might you deal differently with the situation today? Allow this to be a sharing time without a lot of processing or attempted problem-solving. Don’t let it turn into a time to make fun of or further tease participants. Thank young people who are willing to share these reflections. Acknowledge that being made to feel different or weird can hurt a lot. Reinforce positive actions or thoughts that are shared. If young people share things that are currently happening and are of concern, follow-up privately with them afterward to learn if they need additional support or intervention.
  3. Ask the class to make a list of things they can each do to have a positive self-esteem and body image. Encourage them to be creative; they may come up with surprising and fun suggestions. The list might include:
    • Spend time with people who treat you well and help you feel good about yourself.
    • Use positive self-talk, such as “I am strong, self-confident, and capable.”
    • Keep a journal to help you see what areas in your life need attention.
    • Celebrate what you like about yourself and work on changing things that you don’t like as much.
    • Remind yourself that you are unique, special, valued and important.
    • Get out and participate in activities with your family and friends.
    • Eat foods that are good for you and make you feel great, such as lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats such as from nuts, avocados and olive oil.
    • Be active at least 60 minutes each day.
    • Talk with a trusted family member or friend if you are feeling low.
    • Treat others with the kindness and respect that all unique individuals deserve.

Conclusion

Self-esteem can’t be taught, but it can be strengthened. This self-esteem lesson plan could spark difficult feelings for young people who are highly insecure, depressed or otherwise struggling. During these body image activities, encourage young people to talk to a trusted friend or adult if they find themselves feeling down about themselves on a regular basis or over a long period of time. Health Powered Kids offers wellness resources for parents that can help them talk to kids about positive body images, and teach important lessons on self-esteem and healthy living.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing positive self-esteem and body image with their kids at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Additional Instructor Resources:

Get Out and Enjoy Nature

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the benefits of outside play for their bodies and minds. The youth will participate in three hands-on activities that show some of the many ways they can enjoy being outdoors.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about the benefits of outdoor play. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

Outdoor play can help the body by:

  • increasing fitness levels and building active, healthy bodies
  • raising levels of Vitamin D which helps protect bone strength and may help in the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes
  • may help improve distance vision
  • may help you breathe easier.

Outdoor play can help the mind by:

  • improving focus throughout the day
  • helping kids score higher on tests
  • improving critical thinking on projects.

Outdoor play can help the spirit by:

  • lowering stress levels
  • protecting emotional development and lowering the risk of anxiety and depression
  • enhancing social interactions and helping kids value community
  • enhancing sleep duration and quality.

Activity: Outdoor Energy Boost

This activity demonstrates how our mood can improve simply by going outdoors for a short period of time.

  1. Before going outside, have each young person report on how they are feeling. Write their answers on the whiteboard or smart board.
  2. When they come back inside, ask them again how they are feeling. Write their answers down again. Ask the youth what differences they see. Do they feel happy or sad, tired or lively, restless or calm? Did they feel like they have more energy since going outside?
  3. After all the results are in, show the young people some of the differences. For instance if 5 people were tired before going outside, and 1 was tired after going outside, then you can form a hypothesis that going outside makes most people less tired. If your group of young people would rather play on the computer or watch TV, let them know that these ‘screen’ activities could make them feel more tired and less energetic. So, the more you are able to get outside creating, playing, and working the more energy you will have.
  4. Tell them some of the positive benefits of outdoor play, such as builds healthy bones, improves mood, fresh air can help us breathe easier, and help us sleep better at night.

Activity: Creature – An Outdoor Art Project

This activity allows youth to use their imagination and creativity to look at nature in a whole new way.

  1. Give each young person a paper bag to bring outside to collect treasures. Tell them they will be making a creature/bug/monster when they have all their supplies.
  2. Have them think about the creature they want to make, then offer clues like collecting a rock for the body, twigs for legs, leaves for wings, and tree seeds for scales. Let them be creative.
  3. Once all the supplies are collected, have the youth glue their creature together and allow time to dry. Have each young person show and tell about their creatures.

Activity: Dig in the Dirt

Most children do not even know what soil ‘feels’ like, they walk on sidewalks. Some days kids do not even get to walk on grass, most have never gardened. This activity has proven to slow kids down and ground them, meaning to get them back to the basics of earth, away from technology. Spending time feeling, touching and describing soil and other nature made materials has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.

  1. Have a bucket of soil for the young people to feel the texture.
  2. Have the young person describe the feeling.
  3. Write their descriptions on the board.

Conclusion

Remind young people that playing outside has many benefits for their bodies and minds. Ask the youth to brainstorm other fun activities they can do outside. Encourage them to get outside and enjoy the outdoors everyday!

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can discuss ways to get outside and have fun together.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Exercise to help the body, mind and spirit

Additional Instructor Resources

Book: Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert
Outdoor Activity Finder by the National Wildlife Federation

 

Stress Busters

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the symptoms of stress and learn some techniques for dealing with it. The youth will practice relaxation techniques that focus on calming the body in order to relax the mind.

Introduction

Explain to the youth that stress can have a powerful impact on your body. Here are some ways that stress can affect you physically:

  • upset stomach
  • headache
  • trouble breathing
  • dizziness
  • chest pains
  • heartburn
  • muscle pain, aches, cramps
  • change in sleep habits
  • change in appetite
  • change in weight.

Ask the youth if they can think of others that they’ve either experienced or heard of.

The good news is that because our bodies and our minds are so connected we can also do things with our bodies that help our minds, and our whole body, relax.

Activity: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Read the instructions for this relaxation activity aloud to the youth and ask them to follow along.

  1. Get into a comfortable position. You can sit or lie down.
  2. Close your eyes, if you feel comfortable doing so. Focus on relaxing your entire body as much as possible.
  3. Start by tensing your toes; curl them up into your feet and hold them tight for 3 to 5 seconds. Release them. Take a deep breath and repeat for another 3 to 5 seconds.
  4. Next, tighten all your muscles from your feet up to your waist. Do a quick mental scan and make sure you have them all: your calves, your things, your bottom. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds Release and repeat.
  5. Now do the same thing with your stomach. Tighten it as much as you can. Hold it. Then release and repeat.
  6. Then do the same thing with your chest. Tighten, hold, release. Two times.
  7. Now your whole torso, including your shoulders, which will probably lift slightly off the ground or away from your chair when you tense them.
  8. Now move to your hands. Tighten them into fists, hold for a count of five and release. Repeat this two times.
  9. Then tighten your entire arms, bending your fists back at the wrist. Hold for five seconds and release. Then repeat.
  10. Tighten your neck by turning your head as far to the right as you can without feeling any discomfort and holding it for 3 to 5 seconds. Then release. Repeat this one more time.
  11. Do the same thing on the left.
  12. Now scrunch and tighten your whole face and hold it for five seconds. Do this one more time and then you are done.
  13. Now that you’ve tensed and released every part of your body, do a quick scan. How do you feel? Are there are places you’d like to tense and release again for a little more relaxation? Go ahead and do that.
  14. When you are ready, open your eyes and begin to slowly move around. Enjoy the calm feeling this activity is sure to bring!

Activity: Whip Share

Do a “whip share” reflection about the above activity. A whip share is where everyone stands in a circle and one at time quickly makes one short statement. In this case ask them to share one thing that they do to help themselves de-stress such as go for a walk, talk to a friend, or listen to music.

Optional Activity: Breathe In, Bubbles Out!

Take a deep breath in through your nose. Fill your lungs full of air! Hold your breath for 1 to 2 seconds. Put the bubble wand up by your mouth and blow! Repeat 3 to 5 times, trying to blow more bubbles each time. After the exercise, ask the youth where in their bodies do they feel the stress or anxiety being released.

Conclusion

Remind the youth that stress can have a powerful impact on us, but that when we relax our bodies, we can also relax our minds. Progressive Muscle Relaxation is one activity we can do any time we’re feeling stressed.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing stress and healthy ways to deal with it at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Oversweetened: The Truth About Sugary Drinks

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the sugar content of popular beverages such as sodas, energy or sports drinks. The youth will measure out granulated white sugar so they can picture the true amount of sugar in these drinks. Young people will think of more healthful options to quench their thirst throughout the day.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about sugar-sweetened drinks. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

  • Added sugars are sugars and syrups which are added to foods or beverages when they are made. Some foods have sugar that is naturally found in them, such as milk and fruit.
  • Americans are drinking more sweetened beverages than ever before. Some beverages have as many as 500 calories. This can be up to a quarter of a person’s calorie needs for the day just in added sugars.
  • Manufacturers will often target their advertising in hopes that if these drinks are purchased by consumers at an early age they will continue to be loyal buyers of that product into adulthood.
  • The body needs fluids to keep healthy; meeting those needs with sweetened beverages is not a good idea and can lead to unhealthful consequences.

Introduction

  1. Ask the youth about the types of beverages they and other young people typically drink. Common examples include sodas, sports drinks (Gatorade™, Powerade™, Vitamin Water™), energy drinks (Monster™, Red Bull™), and specialty coffee drinks (mochas, smoothies).
  2. Ask the youth if they have ever thought about how much sugar has been added to the beverages? (Added sugar refers to sugars and syrups which are added to foods or beverages when they are made and do not occur naturally in the drink.) Added sugars can also be found in many other foods including cereal, yogurt and granola bars. Read the Sneaky Sugars handout to learn more about sneaky sugars hidden in common foods and beverages.
  3. Ask the youth, why do you think it isn’t good to get too much added sugar? Show pictures or models as visual examples of health consequences as they share. Ask them for their ideas, but make sure they get this message:
    • Too much sugar is not good for your teeth—it can cause cavities.
    • Too much sugar is not good for your heart.
    • Too much added sugar each day can cause you to gain weight if your body doesn’t need those extra calories in one day.
    • We want most of what we eat and drink to be things that are good for our bodies and not fill up on things that are not healthful for us.

Activity

Explain to the youth that in this lesson we are going to see exactly how much added sugar is in some popular beverages. In order to do this we need to understand how to read and get the information we need off of the Nutrition Facts label for each type of drink. Show young people the Nutrition Facts Label handout by projecting the image on the board or printing it out. Point out a few significant statistics from the label (such as serving size, number of servings per container, total carbohydrate and sugars).

Tips to teach:

  • One teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories.
  • One teaspoon of sugar weighs 4 grams.
  1. Ask for volunteers to demonstrate for the large group or divide young people into small groups. The youth will figure out how many teaspoons of added sugar are in some popular drinks. Pass out an empty beverage container, granulated sugar, measuring teaspoon and funnel (or sugar cubes) to the volunteers or small groups.
  2. Have the youth calculate the added sugars by reading the information on the label.
    • Multiply the number of servings in the container by the number of grams per serving.
    • Divide that number by four to get the number of teaspoons of sugar per beverage. Young people may use calculators if they wish.
    • Use the funnel to carefully pour the granulated sugar into the empty bottle. Secure bottle top and pass around to emphasize the look, feel and weight of the amount of sugar dissolved in the typical soft drink.
  3. Ask young people to share their findings with the class. You can see that you can get a lot of added sugar just from drinking popular beverages!
    • How many teaspoons of added sugar do you think might be OK in a healthy daily food plan? Ask them to guess a number, just for fun. The answer is about 3 teaspoons each day.
    • How does that compare with the number you might usually have each day, especially if you are having a beverage with high amounts of added sugar? For most young people it will be a lot less than what they are having each day.
  4. Explain to the young people that our bodies need plenty of fluids, including water, every day but we need to find ways to make sure we’re not getting too much added sugar in our daily food plan. Ask the youth what options they might choose to drink instead of sugary drinks to stay hydrated and keep their bodies healthy? Wait for young people to answer but be sure they understand these items:
    • Remind young people that water is the best choice to drink throughout the day for thirst and staying hydrated. Water gets the job done. It quenches your thirst, keeps your skin healthy and glowing, and won’t cause tooth decay, chronic (long-lasting) diseases or gaining high amounts of weight.
    • Milk or a milk substitute is a healthful choice with meals and snacks because it’s full of nutrients your body needs.
    • 100% fruit juice doesn’t have any added sugars and can be healthful if you drink small amounts, no more than 4 to 6 ounces each day. (100% fruit juice doesn’t have all of the fiber and nutrients as whole fruit so it’s best to get most of your fruit servings by eating whole fruits instead).
    • What about diet pop and other diet drinks? Although they have no added sugars, they don’t have any nutrients that are good for our body either, so it is best to avoid filling up on diet drinks that do nothing to keep us healthy.

Conclusion

Challenge the youth to read the nutrition label of the next sweetened beverage they want to drink. How many calories and grams of sugar are in it? Remember how the white granulated sugar looks when it’s measured out, teaspoon by teaspoon. See if you can think of a more healthful option to quench your thirst!

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can talk about alternatives to sugary drinks from their pantries at home.

Additional Instructor Resources