Stress! No Body Needs It

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the causes and effects of stress and learn some techniques for dealing with it. The youth will identify physical symptoms of stress and list some situations that may bring them on. They will learn some skills for managing stress and make their very own stress ball.


Introduce the young people to the topic of stress. Let them know that we’ve all had times when our bodies react to stress and we can feel it. It’s the sensation also known as “flight or fight.” Our bodies’ natural way of coping with being frightened or challenged is to release certain chemicals into our bloodstream that provide extra short-term energy and alertness. Our instincts take over and “tell” us that we are facing danger and we either need to defend ourselves (fight) or get away (flight).

Sometimes when this happens we do things we didn’t think we could, such as run very fast or lift something heavy. We may also notice that our hearts beating harder and faster, our hands getting sweaty and cold, or our faces feeling flushed and hot.

Chances are everyone will have had many experiences of this. Ask for a few descriptions of what that looks and feels like. Young people might also describe feeling “butterflies” in their stomachs or having dry mouths.

Then explain that when this happens the options for what a person can do to respond become very limited because instinct takes over and we lose our ability to fully use the part of our brains that makes rational decisions.

Fortunately, by understanding what triggers our “fight or flight” reaction and learning skills to deal with it, we can learn to prevent some stress responses and calm ourselves down from those that do happen.

Activity: How Do You Know if it’s Stress?

Distribute the handout: Your Body Under Stress

Ask young people to each draw or write images on their “body” of where they feel stress and how they know they are having a stress response.

Don’t give examples right away, but if they need a little help you can offer these ideas:

  • heart pounds harder and faster
  • hands feel sweaty and cold
  • face flushes (gets hot and red)
  • “butterflies” in your stomach
  • dry mouth.

After young people finish the handout ask them the following questions:

  1. How easy or hard was it to think of ways your body reacts to stress?
  2. What are some of the ways you thought of that your body reacts to stress?
  3. Does everyone respond the same way?
  4. Are there good kinds of stress? What are some examples? (Examples of positive stress might be a performance of some sort, a physical challenge, speaking in front of a group about something important to you, and so on. Positive stress creates feelings of excitement, anticipation, like right before going over a big hill on a roller coaster.)

Activity: What brings stress on?

Complete the Stress: What Brings it On? worksheet.

There doesn’t need to be a lot of discussion about this worksheet as long as you process it at the end of the session as described in the conclusion. Do point out, however, that one way of both avoiding stress and getting better at dealing with it is to become more aware of what brings it on for you personally. This worksheet helps people think about and identify their own personal stress triggers.

Activity:  Make a stress ball

Introduce the stress ball as a way to help deal with stress. These objects are popular because squeezing the ball in your hand helps reduce tension throughout your body. It may be even more effective if you pay attention to your breath as you squeeze: breathe in as you squeeze the ball, breathe out as you relax your hand.

Let each young person make a homemade stress ball. Instructions:

    1. Take two or three balloons and cut the tops off just above the rounded area, so that all is left is the round part of the balloon. You will also need one uncut balloon.
    2. Take the uncut balloon and stretch the opening over the narrow end of the funnel. Have young people work in pairs so one can hold the funnel while the other fills it the balloon.
    3. Slowly and carefully pour about half a cup of millet seed into the funnel. The amount with vary depending on the size of balloon you use. Make sure it all goes into the balloon. Add more if necessary.
    4. Once the balloon is full to the top of the rounded part, without stretching the balloon, stop filling.
    5. Remove the funnel and tie a tight knot just above the round part of the balloon. Do not cut off the end of the balloon.
    6. Take one of the cut balloons and stretch it over the tied millet-filled balloon. Make sure the tied end is covered first.
    7. Continue adding more cut balloons, always covering the open end of the previous balloon first until you have several layers. This way if one layer breaks the seed will not spill out.


    • The number of balloons you will need will depend on how strong and thick the balloons are. If you use good quality, thick balloons, you should only need three in addition to the filled balloon. If you use weaker balloons, you may need to use four or more.
    • With use, your stress ball will become dirty, so you can either clean carefully with very mild soap and water, or remove the outer balloon and add a new one.


Talk about how young people can learn to make choices that help them avoid negative stress, the kind that makes it so they have a hard time making decisions, the kind that feels uncomfortable and maybe even a little bit scary. Ask the youth what kind of activities will help them deal with de-stress. Some examples include:

  • taking a walk
  • talking to a friend
  • listening to music
  • meditation.

Continuing the Conversation

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

Additional Instructor Resources

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.


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.


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

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.


  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.


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.


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.


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:

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.


  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.


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.


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

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.


  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.


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.

Listen Hear! All About the Ear

Lesson Overview

This lesson will introduce young people to the structure of their ears and how they work through a diagram and by building a model ear drum. The youth will play a listening game to learn more about their hearing and how important it is to keep their ears healthy.


Describe the three basic parts of the ear, using the Your Ears Handout as a visual guide (see What You Need). Discuss the care of each part.

The Parts of Your Ear

Outer ear: This is the part you can see. The outer ear is where sounds are collected and moved along the ear canal toward the middle ear. The middle ear is separated from the outer ear by the eardrum.

Middle ear: Vibrations from the eardrum travel through the little bones of the middle ear (ossicles) and are sent to the inner ear. The space in the middle ear is filled with air.

Inner ear: This is where the vibrations from the middle ear create nerve signals. The nerve signals send the messages to your brain that become the sounds you hear.

How to Care for the Parts of Your Ear

Outer ear: This is the only part you should clean.You can wash behind your ears and around the outside. Sometimes shampoo or soap can get stuck behind them so rinse well!

Whatever you do, don’t stick anything larger than your elbow into your ear. Even though earwax can seem kind of icky, it is normal and usually healthy. It should only be cleaned out if your doctor says it’s OK.

If you have pierced ears, be sure to keep them clean with a sterile solution or they can become infected.

Middle ear: This part can become infected. If this happens, your doctor can prescribe a medicine (such as an antibiotic) to help treat the problem.

You should never stick anything in your ear canal because the eardrum can be punctured or torn.

Inner ear: The part can also become infected and would need treatment by your doctor.

Activity: Make a model eardrum

  1. Give each young person or small group the following supplies:
    • a plastic cup. This represents the ear canal.
    • a piece of plastic wrap large enough to stretch over the lid of the cup and stay there securely. This represents the eardrum.
    • a rubber band, if using rubber bands to hold the plastic wrap in place.
  2. Give each young person or small group about 10 grains of rice or salt. This is just a visual aid to help them see what is happening to the “eardrum” (plastic wrap) when exposed to loud noises.

  3. Tell the youth to stretch the plastic wrap tightly over the cup, secure it, and place the grains of rice or salt on top. They now have model eardrums.

  4. Have the young people experiment with noisemakers to see if they can get their model eardrums to vibrate. They will know if it is working because the rice or salt will bounce around. This is a simulation of what happens when sound waves reach your eardrums. They vibrate, causing other parts of your ears to vibrate, sending signals to your brain that are processed as sounds.

  5. After a while ask for volunteers willing to make small holes in their model eardrums. Experiment with that for a while. Notice what happens. Compare those with tears to those still intact. Also compare different size tears.

  6. Discuss the experiment: What did you notice about what happened when we exposed our “eardrums” to different sounds? What happens if we poke a hole or make a tear in one of them? Does it work as well? (No, it does not; it doesn’t vibrate as much. Also, things like the grains of rice or salt can get through.) Try to imagine a hole or a tear in your own eardrum. What do you think would happen to your hearing? What about the health of your ear? (You could have temporary hearing loss or, if the tear didn’t heal, permanent hearing loss. Also, bacteria and other contaminants could get in and lead to infection.) It’s important to remember to never stick anything in your ear to clean it or for any other reason. Doctors are the only people who should put anything in your ears…they know how to do it and can do it without damage.

Activity: What’s that you say?

  1. Form a circle with one person blindfolded in the middle (can be done seated or standing).
  2. Explain that you are going to silently point to people around the circle and that when you point at someone, he or she is to say the name of the person blindfolded in the middle.
  3. The blindfolded person must then try to point in the direction of the voice and identify the name of the person who said his name.
  4. Try this experiment with the blindfolded person using both ears and then again with one hand over one of them to block the sound.
  5. Let any young person who wishes to take a turn in the middle.

After the activity, ask the young people to reflect with the following questions:

  • What is it like to try to identify where and from whom the sound is coming?
  • Do some people have a harder time with this than others? Why do you think that is?
  • Is it easier with one ear? Both ears? (Some people have a dominant ear.)


Conclude the lesson with the following discussion questions.

  • How important is it that we take good care of our ears? Why? (We function best when they are both working. They are sensitive and can be damaged.)

  • Besides keeping them clean, what can we do to protect our ears? (Wear a helmet when riding a bike or board or playing contact sports. Avoid loud noises, especially over long periods of time such as a rock concert. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to shout to hear or be heard it’s too loud. Wear earplugs if doing loud work or being in loud environments.)

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing ear health and safety at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

What’s that you say?

Additional Instructor Resources

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.


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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!

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.


  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?


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

Know What Matters to You

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand how finding balance between their values and what they do can help them feel healthier and happier. The youth will complete a Values Circle Chart and compare the most important things to them with how they spend their time.

Instructor Notes

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

What are values? Why are they important? Why is it important for us to be clear about our own values?

A lot of people talk about “finding balance” in life. For adults, it’s usually work-life balance. For kids, it usually means having a good mix of school, activities, time with friends and family, and time to just relax.

What sometimes gets missed in this conversation is talking about values. Values are really the foundation for how we can find balance in life. If we know what’s important to us and make decisions about how to spend our time based on that we’ll be more likely to feel at ease, successful, happy, and well.  Most would agree feeling healthy or positive is better than feeling unhealthy or negative. This is true for people of all ages.

Another way to say this is that life balance does not mean equality, it means knowing what’s most important to you and doing the best you can to reflect that in how you live your life.


Ask the young people if they have ever been caught between two things that felt really important to them. See if there are a few volunteers willing to share examples.

Explain that every day we have to make choices. Sometimes decisions are really clear and we know right away what we want to do. Other times we are conflicted between two or more good things, not a bad thing and a good thing. These are conflicting values. We are dealing with these all of time, often without us even realizing it, such as when we decide between a sweet treat we really love and something that we know would be healthier for us.

On a larger scale if, for example, participating in a sport I really love means I don’t get to do the after-school club that my two best friends are in, how do I make that decision and feel good about it, not make a decision and feel guilt or regret?

The answer for how to make decisions we feel good about all the time is to become more aware of our own values.


Distribute the Values Circle Chart worksheets and explain how they will use them. The instructions are provided on the worksheet.

Offer examples of common important values: family, exercise, health or career. Point out that more often than not people don’t ever show up themselves on the list.

Then explain to them that they should identify how much time they actually spend on these. Debrief using the following questions:

  • What did you notice during this activity?
  • What do you notice about how your values compare with how you spend your time?
  • Are you happy with what you discovered by doing this activity? Why or why not?
  • What’s one thing you’d like to do differently in order to have your life more in balance with your values?


We can feel happier and healthier if we choose to spend our time in ways that are more in line with our values. Remind the youth to think of the important things they wrote on their charts as they decide how to spend their time over the next few days. Suggest that young people hang their Circle Chart somewhere they can see it each day to remind them of their most important values.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing goal setting based on their values at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Knowing what matters can help you destress

Additional Instructor Resources by Allina Health