Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Healthy Living
Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Students examine their health culture and survey their home and neighborhood environments to collect information about nutrition and fitness in the community. Students design a comic strip to educate others about healthy eating and exercise.


Three 45-Minute Class Sessions


Learners will:

  • define personal health culture.
  • develop healthy alternatives for personal health choices.
  • identify facts about healthy eating.
  • evaluate the completed Home Health Surveys.
  • plan a health survey of school and neighborhood.
  • identify the cultural and environmental factors that promote obesity.
  • design healthy living logos.
  • create healthy eating and exercise comic strips.


  • exercise: planned physical activity for the purpose of conditioning the body, improving health, and maintaining fitness.
  • health: the state of being in sound body, mind, and spirit
  • personal health culture: the beliefs and practices that affect our health
  • community: a group of people who share interests and goals and work together
  • nutrition: the process of nourishing to maintain health and growth
  • perspective: a particular way of viewing things based on one’s experience and personality
  • survey: a formal examination of the details of something to determine its character
  • chronic: occurring over a long time or frequently
  • obesity: a condition characterized by an excessive storage of fat in the body


  • student copies of Health Culture Self Survey (Handout 1)
  • student copies of Home Health Survey (Handout 2)
  • copies of New York Times articles Eat an Apple (Doctor’s Orders)  and Fixing a World That Fosters Fat
  • clipboards for walking tour observations
  • copy of Service Project Suggestions (Handout 3)
  • writing and drawing materials
  • student copies of Community Service Comic Strip (Handout 4)
  • student copies of Food and Exercise Logs (Lesson Two, Handout 2)
  • magazine ads of logos for familiar businesses or organizations. For example: McDonald's, Nike, Pink Ribon, Heart Truth Logo.
  • (optional) copy of a movie with a theme of overconsumption, such as Wall-E, Fast Food Nation, or the educational version of Supersize Me
Handout 1
Health Culture Survey
Handout 2
Home Health Survey
Handout 3
Community Service Comic Strip
Handout 4
Service Project Suggestions

Instructional Procedure(s):

Session One:

Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 10 minutes)
Facilitator introduces today’s theme, Health Culture. Spend a few minutes brainstorming with students the meaning of personal health culture. Then write personal health culture on the board, along with the definition: “the beliefs and practices that affect our health.”
Focus Activity (Estimated Time: 35 minutes)
  • Have students examine their own health culture (systems, habits, and routines) that influence their health. Distribute Health Culture Self Survey (Handout 1)  for students to complete.
  • Discuss the results. On the board, list the item numbers for which two or more students answered No. Assign one of these statements to each group of three or four students. Have the groups write several healthy alternatives for these healthy-living choices.
    • For example: (item 7) “I try not to drink soda when I’m thirsty.” Healthy alternatives: Water is the best drink for your body. If you want something sweet, add a little juice to the water. Sparkling water is also a good alternative, and it tastes like soda if you add a little of your favorite juice.
  • Have groups share with the group their healthy alternatives to the survey items.
  • Brainstorm other statements that could be included in a Health Culture Self Survey. Have students write additional items for a second page to the survey. Begin their questions with number 13. Challenge them to create another 12 statements (24 in total).
  • Have students add to their Food and Exercise Log (Lesson Two, Handout 2) . They fill in the date (or dates) and list the foods they ate at each meal under the correct food group heading. Have students also record their physical activity and time, and time spent watching TV or using the computer. They may keep logs in journals or special Healthy Community folders.
  • Give students the Home Health Survey (Handout 2) to take home and fill out with their families. They bring it back to school completed and ready to discuss in the next session.

Session Two:

Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 10 minutes)
Follow up on the previous session by reviewing the students’ completed Home Health Surveys. Discuss the results. Ask students the following reflection questions:
  • What have these surveys made you more aware of?
  • How can you persuade your families to make healthier food choices at home?
  • How can you promote more time for healthy exercise with your family?
  • How will changing your home health culture make your family happier?

Then introduce today’s theme: Healthy Schools and Neighborhoods. Say, “We have begun to observe how we make choices to develop a healthy self. Today we will take a walking tour and examine the health of our school and neighborhood and begin working together to make them healthy places to learn and live.” Ask the following questions:

  • Do you think our school and our neighborhood support healthy living? Why or why not?
  • What will we be looking for in school and the neighborhood that support healthy living? (places to exercise and healthy choices of food in the cafeteria, vending machines, food shops, and restaurants)
  • What do you predict we will find? (Answers will vary. Write predictions on the board or chart paper to compare with actual observations later.) 
Focus Activity (Estimated Time: 35 minutes plus walk time)
  • Give students clipboards and paper to record observations as they walk around the school. Ask them to pay close attention to places like their cafeteria (what kinds of foods are served for lunch?), vending machines (does our school have these? what is inside?), gymnasium (is it a place where students can safely exercise?), and  school grounds (is it a clean, safe place for students to run and play sports/games?).
  • Return to the classroom. On chart paper with two columns, record observations in one column. In the second column, list of what the school needs to promote health. 
  • Draw conclusions: Does the school environment promote healthy living? Compare predictions made with the observations and conclusions.
  • Repeat for the immediate school neighborhood. Note restaurants, fast food shops, candy stores, gyms, playgrounds, etc. What did students find out about their community? Again, record observations on a two-column chart. In the second column, list of what the neighborhood needs to promote health. 
  • Save charts for later sessions devoted to selecting a service project.
  • Have students add to their copies of Food and Exercise Log. Have students fill in the date (or dates) and list the foods they ate at each meal under the correct food group heading. Have students also record their physical activity and time, and time spent watching TV or using the computer.  They may keep logs in their journals or special Healthy Community folders.

Session Three: 

Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 10-15 minutes)
Display logos that students are familiar with such as Nike’s swish and McDonald’s arches, Susan G Komen for the Cure Pink Ribbon, Heart Truth. Ask the students why companies and organizations create logos. What is the purpose of a logo? (It creates immediate product/brand recognition.) Ask students what they think The Heart Truth logo represents (heart disease risks for women).
  • Have students work independently or with partners to create their own logos/symbols for healthy living. Have each pair share their symbols and explain the component parts and what they represent.
  • Ask the following reflection questions:
    • What do all your symbols have in common?
    • How are the symbols different? How are they alike?
    • Which symbols best represent healthy living? Why?

Focus Activity (Estimated Time: 35 minutes)

  • Facilitator tells students that a serious, long-lasting health problem among children in America is obesity. Obesity is a condition in which body fat builds up enough to affect health. Being obese in childhood increases the probability of adult obesity and many health issues.
  • Obesity is a personal issue as well as a public health threat that can lead to many extremely serious health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. Recent research suggests that if this trend continues and obesity rates continue to rise, this generation of young people could be the first to have shorter life spans than their parents.
  • Discuss why health is an issue that affects the community, not just individuals.
  • Distribute New York Times article by Natasha Singer from August 20, 2010 about obesity (see Bibliographical References) Fixing a World That Fosters Fat. After reading, ask the following discussion questions:
    • What cultural and environmental factors contribute to the rising obesity rates? (Commercials for unhealthy foods; cheap fast-food restaurants; government subsidizing corn, soybean, and milk industries)
    • How might a tax on soda help prevent obesity? (By making it more expensive to drink unhealthy products.)
    • What could the government do to help make healthy fruits and vegetables less expensive? (Support local farms, subsidize stores and businesses that provide healthy foods in high-obesity areas.)
  • Then distribute another article, Eat an Apple (Doctor’s Orders) also by Natasha Singer, from the August 12, 2010 New York Times. This article tells about three health centers in Massachusetts that are advising patients to eat “prescription produce” from local farmers’ markets. The health centers provide $1 coupons a day for each member of a patient’s family.
  • Discuss with students whether this “prescription” could work in their neighborhood.
  • Brainstorm ways that people can prevent obesity. (Examples include eating healthy food and avoiding fast food and snacking, exercising daily, and teaching our families and friends about healthy habits.)
  • Then have students work in pairs to design a comic strip that promotes healthy habits. Give students Community Service Comic Strip (Handout 3). They may also create a single panel cartoon. Display their finished comic strips in their school cafeteria to show other students how they are fighting obesity or promoting healthy living. Students may also choose to act out their comic strip stories for some of the younger students in the school.
  • Have students add to their copies of Food and Exercise Log. Students fill in the date (or dates) and list the foods they ate at each meal under the correct food group heading. Students also record their physical activity and time, and time spent watching TV or using the computer. They keep their logs in their journals or special Healthy Community folders. 


Youth Voice:

Our culture dictates who we are and what we value. Ask students to share what is most important part of their personal health culture that they would like to share with others to improve the health of the community.

Students have different perspectives on community needs based on how they interact with the community. Encourage them to voice their views and respect the different perspectives represented in the classroom.

Students can propose a variety of physical games and activities that are fun and active to promote good health. They may have ideas for teaching and practicing these physical activities with a group of young children in the community who may not have opportunities to play in a safe place.

School/Home Connection:

Students complete the Home Health Survey as homework after Session One. They bring the completed form back to school for discussion in the next session.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Current Events: Ask students to respond yes or no to this question: Is exercise and training enough to make a top competitive athlete perform at his best? Tally their responses. Then distribute the New York Times articles about Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte and rising tennis star Mardy Fish (see Resources). What did these superb athletes discover about eating the right foods? (It isn’t just enough to burn off the calories you eat by training hard, you have to put the right fuel in your body to perform your best – if you want to beat Michael Phelps or be a top seeded tennis player.)
Internet Search: Many communities publish a Community Health Profile. These reports provide information on community health issues and can be used as a resource for improving community health. Find yours by typing “Community Health Profile” + your city into a search engine. Examples: New York City: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/data/data.shtml#3
New Jersey http://www.nj.gov/ Pennsylvania: http://www.state.pa.us/
Writing: Students write articles for their school or local newspaper about the health of their school or home community. Students should focus on creating a compelling piece that will educate and inspire people to take action.
Petition and Letter-Writing Campaigns: Students draft letters or petitions to a local representative or to the school’s principal urging their attention to relevant, health-related issues.
View and Discuss: Watch the DVD Wall-E with students. Discuss the movie’s two important messages: Overconsumption destroys the environment and overconsumption plus inactivity lead to unhealthy obesity. Movie alternatives: Fast Food Nation, Supersize Me
Physical Education: Set up a walking schedule and walk daily as a group. Learn about the health benefits of walking. Work with students to organize, advertise, and implement a student and teacher walk-a-thon to help prevent obesity by encouraging exercise. The American Diabetes Association has some pointers at http://schoolwalk.diabetes.org/

See Service Project Suggestions (Handout 4) for other ideas.

Reflection: (click to view)


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Health Culture Survey

Handout 2Print Handout 2

Home Health Survey

Handout 3Print Handout 3

Community Service Comic Strip

Handout 4Print Handout 4

Service Project Suggestions


  • School bulletin board: Begin a dedicated bulletin board to display health issues and information related to healthy living and healthy communities. Suggested titles: Stuff You’ve GOT to Know, BE COOL, BE HEALTHY. Post articles, charts, posters, food riddles and jokes, healthy recipes, and interesting and disturbing facts about health. Add, change and revise the bulletin board every week or two. Encourage the students to add current events, interesting facts, and posters to the bulletin board. 
  • Newsletter: Maintain a Healthy Communities newsletter (with content similar to the bulletin board described above) to distribute to students, parents, and neighborhood businesses. 
  • Read Alouds: Have students select passages from books related to healthy living to read aloud to a younger class in the school. Students will need to practice reading aloud slowly and with expression. Encourage students to plan questions to ask children during or after reading. Have students rehearse with small groups of classmates. Suggested books: Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food by Charles Wilson and Eric Schlosser, Real Kids Come in All Sizes by Kathy Kater, I’m, Like, So Fat! By Dine Newmark-Sztainer.
  • Petition and Letter-Writing Campaigns: Students draft letters or petitions to a local representative or to the school’s principal or to a local TV or radio station urging their attention to relevant, health-related issues.
  • Fundraiser: Create a cookbook with recipes from students’ families. Include favorite Taste Testers snacks and treats that use healthier alternatives to white flour, oils, and sugar. Use as a fundraiser. 
  • Walk-a-thon: Work with students to organize, advertise, and implement a student and teacher walk-a-thon to help prevent obesity by encouraging exercise. The American Diabetes Association has some pointers here: http://www.schoolwalk.diabetes.org/  
  • PSA: Divide students into small groups to brainstorm ideas for a public service announcement about health that targets young people.
    • What is it important for your peers to know about health?
    • How can you create a message that will influence other young people? How will you inspire them to take control of their health?
  • Media Messages: Ask students to select a current advertisement or song (print, TV, radio) and change it to reflect a healthy message. Create a new, effective version of the ad that presents a healthy message. Perform it for the class. 
  • Create a Character: Ask students to consider characters like talking M&M’s. How do characters like these help to market unhealthy foods to children? Students should think about the qualities that make characters like M&M’s appealing and then create characters that make healthy foods just as tempting. (Bro Broccoli?)
  • Jokes and Riddles: Create a series of Fun Food Facts posters using riddles and interesting/surprising information about different healthy foods.
For example:
Look! Out in the field! Is it a vegetable? Is it a grain? Is it a fruit?”
It’s a vegetable, a grain AND a fruit – it’s corn!
Include information about how corn is eaten and what food categories it belongs to.
Add a silly riddle, for example: What do you say to a farmer who wants to talk about corn? "I'm all ears."
  • Mini-Books: Make mini-books of student-illustrated food riddles and include a fun food fact with each one.
    • For example:
        • Why did the banana go to the doctor? It wasn't peeling well.
        • Why did the peanut butter jump into the ocean? To be with the jellyfish
        • What dessert do fish serve at their parties? Crab cakes
  • Game: Students use index cards and magazine photos of foods. On the back, write the food group, portion size, and approximate calories. Make cards for every food group.
Make a Meal— Spread out the cards, food picture side up. Players use the cards to make a meal. Scoring: 1 point for each food group (except Extras). 1 point for identifying each food group.
Calorie Counters—Spread out food cards for a single food group. Players identify the food with the least and the most calories.

Philanthropy Framework:

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