Healthy Living

6, 7, 8

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.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree 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.
  • 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
  • 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
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.


Students maintain a journal and write their reflections after each session.

Journal Questions 5: Is there something you’d like to improve about yourself? What is it, and how could you work to change it?

Journal Question 6: Pick one thing you’d like to change about your school or neighborhood. What would you change? Why?

Journal Question 7: How would your neighborhood/community be different if there were NO fast food restaurants? How would this change your eating habits? What difference would it make to the community?

Group Reflection: Pair students to share their comic strips with each other. Students discuss how their comic strip seeks to promote healthy eating habits.

 For additional reflection material: distribute and discuss New York Times: “Army Revises Training to Deal with Unfit Recruits”


  1. 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)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. Have groups share with the group their healthy alternatives to the survey items.

  5. 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).

  6. 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.

  7. Give students the Home Health Survey (Handout2) to take home and fill out with their families. They bring it back to school completed and ready to discuss in the next session.

  8. 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:

  9. What have these surveys made you more aware of?

  10. How can you persuade your families to make healthier food choices at home?

  11. How can you promote more time for healthy exercise with your family?

  12. How will changing your home health culture make your family happier?

  13. 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:

  14. Do you think our school and our neighborhood support healthy living? Why or why not?

  15. 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)

  16. What do you predict we will find? (Answers will vary. Write predictions on the board or chart paper to compare with actual observations later.)

  17. Focus Activity (Estimated Time: 35 minutes plus walk time)

  18. 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?).

  19. 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.

  20. Draw conclusions: Does the school environment promote healthy living? Compare predictions made with the observations and conclusions.

  21. 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.

  22. Save charts for later sessions devoted to selecting a service project.

  23. 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.

  24. 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 organizationscreate 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).

  25. 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.

  26. 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?
  27. Focus Activity (Estimated Time: 35 minutes)

  28. 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.

  29. Obesity is a personalissue 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.

  30. Discuss why health is an issue that affects the community, not just individuals.

  31. 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.)
  32. 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.

  33. Discuss with students whether this “prescription” could work in their neighborhood.

  34. 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.)

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Identify specific learning objectives from the academic core curriculum that are being applied in the service-learning project.
    2. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.