"Growing Healthy" comes to local schools  

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff

ÊÊ  Mountain States Health Foundation has brought a "Growing Healthy" curriculum to Elizabethton City and Carter County schools. The program helps students develop healthy habits at an early age.
   Kindergarden and first grade teachers from Elizabethton City Schools, and a few from the County Schools are training this week. The county school teachers will train next week. Training will be held after school for those teachers who couldn't make this week's training program. The foundation has trained approximately 400 teachers in the "Growing Healthy" program.
   According to Marcy Walker, chairman of Mountain States Health Foundation and coordinator of "Growing Healthy" the program builds upon itself year after year. For the first year, the program will only include kindergarden and first graders. Next year, the program will progress to include students kindergarden through 4th grade. Eventually the program will follow students throughout their education.
   The Foundation started "Growing Healthy" eight years ago in East Tennessee county schools including Washington and Unicoi and also in Johnson City Schools. This will be the first year Carter County has itegrated the "Growing Healthy" program into their standard curriculum.
   "We are dealing with huge challenges in health care and specifically Tennessee," said Walker. The growing healthy program will hopefully teach students the choices they have, and how to make the right ones.
  One activity teachers have used involves teaching students about germs using glitter. The glitter represents germs, and each student dips their hands into different colors of glitter, so they can track their "germs". By the end of the day, students are sprinkled in a rainbow of glitter color, and they learn where the "germs" came from and the importance of washing their hands.
  The Foundation provides a three day training course, which includes a teachers curriculum book that has daily lesson plans for teachers to pick and choose from to incorporate into their standard curriculum. Arts and crafts items are even being provided by the Foundation.
  "Growing Healthy" also provides a tooth brush for students to keep and practice what they learn. For some students who are underprivileged, this may be the first time anyone has shown them how and when to brush their teeth.
  Brooke Shanks, a kindergarden teacher at Hunter Elementary, attended the training with 19 other teachers from area schools. "It's going to be good. There are visuals, songs and hands-on programs which kids this age relate to," said Shanks, "and I love the fact that everything is provided."
   East Side Elementary School teacher, Julie Blevins, commented on the old curriculum. "A lot of new stuff can be incorporated in the current curriculum." Teachers this week have been working hard on coloring the crafts provided by "Growing Healthy". The program animates fruits and vegetables by giving them names. The color-coded learning system is designed to help kids remember and have fun while learning.
  The Foundation is working closely with Milligan College on pre-testing and post-testing students on their health knowledge. Walker said, "Its a way for us to measure and monitor students learning."