Harmony in Schools
Hi! I am Eliza Leslie, a National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member serving at YMCA Tiger Academy and the James Weldon Johnson Family YMCA where I am the Nutrition Teacher and Teen Coordinator. Within the role at Tiger Academy, I create lesson plans with games and activities that incorporate healthy eating and physical activity standards. At the J.W.J. Family YMCA Teen Center, I advise the Teens’ Leaders Club where we enhance their leadership skills and experience. These past few months I have enjoyed the experience of learning how to communicate with the youth as a whole, but also individually.
Each generation has different significant experiences during their formative years that shape their outlook on the World. Through this service year, I am gaining first-hand insights into the relationship between the conditions in which they live and play (e.g., social context; neighborhood and built environment; socioeconomic status) and their health. This generation of youth had a major event, covid-19, that disrupted their social, emotional, and mental well-being at a young age. Although I am not as “up to date” on the trends, at the end of the day I do recognize that they are kids. As the year's progress, certain characteristics of a child remain: They like to have fun, need some love, and need support. Those characteristics do not just leave us as we develop into adults, it has to be nurtured, and sometimes we just need the reminder that our inner child does exist. As I have begun nurturing my inner child, I have learned how to communicate and teach the youth I serve.
For the Tiger scholars, I have learned that interactive nutrition lessons are the best way to effectively communicate the lesson. Through them having some hands-on involvement in the lesson such as creating something, trying new food, or playing a game, I am able to grab their attention. With these interactive lessons, they are able to tie the information they learned to something physical, allowing their curious brains to soak up the information. During their lunchtime, I talk one-on-one with the scholars about nutrition and see what they are eating. The presence of their nutrition teacher during these times provides support, allowing for growth and habit changes, as they are reassured that they are choosing the right thing. Regarding the teens, giving them that opportunity to try something new and explore, gives their minds the space to expand and get out of their comfort zone.
As cliché as it sounds, the kids are our future, and it is important that they are given the opportunities and resources to grow and develop into healthy and responsible leaders. Finding new and engaging ways to communicate information with the scholars and teens has allowed for harmony between me as the teacher, and them as the student. I am happy to have this opportunity to improve the lives of these scholars and teens, one service day at a time.