Classroom Community and Good Health

9, 10, 11, 12

Students examine elements of a balanced diet and keep track of their food and exercise over time. The students identify the availability of healthy foods in the school, neighborhood, and home environments. The students learn the importance of physical activity and learn a dance routine. They read and discuss news articles about the effects of diet on sports performance.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFour 55-Minute Class Sessions

Learners will:

  • define community and recognize their place in the community.
  • define good health and analyze their home and community for its health culture.
  • select a topic to research related to youth health.
  • analyze their personal health routines.
  • prepare and present a "meal" to their classmate.
  • map the neighborhood.
  • read news articles about sports and exercise-related articles.
  • advocate for fun exercise in school and at home.
  • teacher copy of Features Overview for teacher reference (Handout 1)
  • stopwatch or clock with a second hand
  • recording of Aretha Franklin singing “Respect”
  • student copies of Health Culture Self Survey (Handout 2)
  • notebook for each student to use as a journal
  • student copies of CDC Childhood Nutrition Facts
  • copy of article Losing Fat, as Easily as Closing Your Eyes New York Times, October 1, 2010
  • 20 index cards for each pair of students
  • rubber bands
  • drawing paper for mapping
  • student copies of Home Health Survey (Handout 3)
  • student copies of Food Critic: Comparative (Handout 4)
  • (optional) copy of Service Project Suggestions (Handout 7)
  • student copies of USDA's MY Plate
  • student copies of Lifestyle Log (Handout 5)
  • Recipe for Monkeysicles (Handout 6)
  • Monkeysicles ingredients: bananas, Popsicle sticks, peanut butter (or soy butter if there are allergy issues), granola, and paper plates, butter knife for spreading, napkins
  • audio of popular music (optional)
  • You Tube Hip Hop Video
  • copies of New York Times exercise-related articles (see Biographical References)
  • Vocabulary Cards (optional) (Handouts 8, 9, 10)
Teacher Preparation 

Session Two:

Session Two introduces Taste Testers, an opportunity for small groups of students to prepare an interesting food for the class to taste over the next seven sessions. For this session, the facilitator should bring in a food for students to taste or ingredients and a recipe to make with students (see Monkeysicles recipe Handout 6).

Taste Comparisons: A group may bring in varieties of a single food to compare, such as different kinds of whole grain bread or different vanilla yogurts (whole milk, low-fat, non-fat, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk).
  • alternative: another option, different from the usual or expected; If you want something crunchy, carrots are a good alternative to chips.
  • calorie: a measurement used by nutritionists to define the energy-producing potential in food; Many diets restrict the number of calories you can eat each day.
  • choreograph: to plan and organize the movements of a dance or other activity; One group chose to choreograph their routine to the lasted hit.
  • community service: service performed by individuals or groups to benefit the community or common good; The community service project included reading to the blind.
  • component: an element, ingredient, or part of a larger whole; The problem is less overwhelming when we break it down into its separate components.
  • consume: to eat, drink, or use up; also to destroy, waste, or ravage; Old model cars consume twice the gas of hybrid models. The forest fire consumed hundreds of acres.
  • critic: someone who is skilled in judging the qualities of something, such as food, books, or movies; The food critic enjoyed the spices in the gumbo but thought the service was slow.
  • culture: the customary beliefs, values, and traits shared by people in a place or time; Our school culture can be seen on the mural titled “Helping Others Helps Ourselves.”
  • essential: most basic and completely necessary; It is essential that students eat healthy foods and exercise regularly.
  • frequent: happening at short, repeated intervals; He is a frequent guest at his cousin’s gym.
  • habit: a repeated pattern of behavior, often unconscious; Get into the habit of eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
  • idiom: an expression having a meaning that cannot be derived logically from its literal meaning
  • inhibit: to prevent from doing something; Drinking coffee can inhibit the body’s absorption of iron.
  • physical fitness: a general state of health and muscular strength and endurance; The general was concerned about the poor physical fitness of the newest volunteers.
  • proportion: harmonious relation of parts to each other or to the whole; The proportion of oil to vinegar in the dressing is 3 to 1.
  • pulse: the number of beats felt in a superficial artery, indicating the pumping of blood by the heart; As they waited for the winner to be named, everyone’s pulse quickened. respect: to show regard or esteem for; I respect your right to disagree with me.
  • responsibilities: the tasks an individual is trusted to perform; The Taste Testers group’s responsibilities include buying the ingredients and preparing the snack.
  • supportive: giving aid or encouragement to; The director encouraged those waiting to audition to be supportive of the singer on stage.
  • urgent: calls for immediate action; The health problems associated with obesity require urgent attention. 
Home Connection 

For homework after Session One, students pick a topic and bullet point from the CDC Healthy Youth report to research on their own or with a partner. For homework, they find 3-5 more interesting facts about their topic to share with the class during the next session. Students may use their journals to record their research, and then make a poster or create short PowerPoint presentation to report their findings. For students interested in exploring sleep, give them copies of the Losing Fat, as Easily as Closing Your Eyes New York Times, October 1, 2010 After each session, students have reporting, taste testers, and/or vocabulary homework. See Handout 1, Features Overview for more information. After Session Four, students conduct research to further investigate the topics raised in the discussion of news articles related to the importance of exercise to good health.


Students maintain a journal and write a reflection after each session.

Journal Question 1: What is your definition of happiness?

Journal Questions 2: What foods do you like to eat? Are your food choices usually healthy? How do you feel when you eat foods that are good for you? How do you feel when you eat unhealthy food?

Journal Question 3: Pick two things you’d like to change about your school or neighborhood. What would you change? Why?

Journal Question 4: What is your favorite form of exercise? Explain why you like it and how you feel during and after.



  1. Session One:

    Anticipatory Set:(Estimated Time: 15 minutes) Introduce the unit Healthy Youth, Healthy Community as an opportunity for students to make a difference in their communities by learning about and acting to address issues related to health. Explain that today they will focus on what constitutes a community. Brainstorm with students characteristics of a community. Say, "We know that communities can be made up of people who live in the same area. What other characteristics make people members of a community? (Characteristics may include shared interests, common experiences, and racial or ethnic identity.) Write a class definition on the board.

  2. Play a game called Commons to help students get to know each other better and build trust with the individuals in the classroom community, play the following game.

  3. This activity helps students get to know each other by finding out things they have in common. Put students into random pairs. Give pairs two minutes to find three or more things that they have in common beyond visible characteristics, such as gender, skin color, or hair and eye color. Examples of commonalities include: shared favorites (subject, sport or team, color, or book), shared taste in music, number of siblings, left/right handedness, a shared desire to travel to India, or hope for world peace. When each pair has found three things in common, ask that each pair join another pair, and communicate to find things three in common among the four of them. Combine groups until the entire class has come together.

  4. Ask the following reflection questions:

    • How did playing Commons change the way you think about community?
    • How could we revise our definition of community to include what we learned from the game?
    • How will a cohesive sense of group help us accomplish our goals?
  5. Focus Activity One (Estimated Time: 15 minutes) In this activity, students explore the importance of individual and group responsibility within communities, focusing on the classroom community.

  6. Explain that over the course of the Unit, students will work in groups, large and small, on a variety of service-oriented projects around health issues that will make a difference in the community. To help the community, students must first recognize that the class is its own micro-community. Tell them that they will promote good working relationships by establishing rules of behavior and conduct through a classroom community contract.

  7. Define contract as a formal, recorded agreement between parties. Tell students that contracts communicate clear expectations between people. This contract will help them take personal responsibility for learning and working best together. Arrange students into groups of three or four and have them list 5 or 6 rules or guidelines they think are important and they agree to follow.

  8. Then have each group read its list. Record suggestions on the board. Do not record duplications. (Examples may include demonstrate respect for othersby listening when others speak, have a positive attitude, work cooperatively, and be a helpful member of the group.) Ask students to determine which guidelines are most important for creating a community that works well together. Star or check the “rules” the whole group considers the most important. Discuss which ones to keep, which to combine, and which ones to eliminate. Have a student record the final contract on chart paper, and have all students sign the chart. Display it in the classroom during all sessions of this unit so students are reminded of the behaviors that are important to them as they build a healthy community.

  9. Focus Activity Two (Estimated Time: 25 minutes)

  10. Distribute notebook journals for students to use during the unit. Have them write a personal, non-dictionary definition of good health. (Note: Students will be asked to write an expanded definition of good health at the end of the unit.) Ask volunteers to read their definitions and discuss. Make sure their good health definitions include healthy foods in reasonable quantities, regular exercise, and sleep. If they don’t bring up these elements, ask them leading questions, such as “Is sleeping a component of good health? Why? How?”

  11. Distribute copies of the Health Culture Self Survey (Handout 2). Remind students that this is for their own information only, unless they choose to share their answers. Give students a few minutes to complete.

  12. Without asking the students to reveal their personal answers, discuss the Health Culture Self Survey. Point out that the healthy answers are obvious. Encourage volunteers to talk about how they felt answering the questions honestly. Have students date and place surveys into their journals.

  13. Tell students that their health is important to them, their families, their communities, and the nation. Ask them to reflect on why their health is important to others. Explain that the government’s Center for Disease Control website has a report on the health of America’s youth. Distribute copies of the CDC’s fact sheet about the health of young people from the website. Give students a few minutes to read the report. You may want to have students read some bullet points aloud. Discuss. What did they find surprising? Disturbing?

  14. Reporting: Have students pick a topic and bullet point from the CDC Childhood Nutrition Facts report to research. Students may work independently or with a partner. Have them find 3-5 more interesting facts about their topic to share with the class during the next session. Students may use their journals to record their research, and then make a poster or create short Power Point presentation to report their findings. For students interested in exploring sleep, give them copies of the Losing Fat, as Easily as Closing Your Eyes New York Times, October 1, 2010

  15. Vocabulary: Students refer to the vocabulary cards for the Session One words in Handouts 8 and 9. See Features Overview for ideas for student use of vocabulary words.

  16. Session Two: Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 20 minutes) Introducethe theme of the day: Eating Well. In this partner activity, students list as many healthy foods for each letter of the alphabet as they can in five minutes.

  17. Pair students randomly. Give each pair paper and pens. Tell students to list for each letter of the alphabet as many healthy foods as they can in five minutes. Give them a few minutes to work out a strategy (for example, splitting the alphabet in half or having one student record). After the five minutes are up, have one team read their list. Have other teams make a check mark next the same foods on their list. Allow other students to name foods that were not already read aloud.

  18. Discuss whether some questionable foods listed are really healthy. For example, Is lasagna healthy? (Yes). Have students draw a line under the last entry and score their lists as follows: 5 points for each letter of the alphabet used, 1 point for each healthy food per letter. Give bonus points for unique foods (no other group came up with that food).

  19. Ask the following reflection questions:

    • How did you think of healthy foods when you got stuck for ideas? (Possible answers: I pictured a green grocer’s vegetable display; I thought about the farmer’s market I went to over the weekend)
    • Would you say you know a lot, some, a little, or not much about healthy foods? (Answers will vary).
  20. Reporting: Have students share their research from the previous session, including the vocabulary word(s) they chose.

  21. Focus Activity One (Estimated Time: 25 minutes) In their journals, have students list everything they ate for dinner last night, snacks after dinner, breakfast, and lunch today. Also list all drinks, including water.

  22. Introduce students to the USDA's My Plate published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plate contains five food groups: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Dairy and Protein Foods. Talk about the foods in each food group and the size of the plate section for that food group. Explain that the bigger the portion of the plate, the more foods from that food group should be in their diet.

  23. Have students mark each item on their dinner list with the name of the food group(s) represented by the food. Some foods represent more than one group. For example, lasagna has items from the Protein , Dairy , Grain, and Vegetable groups. (Junk foods, such as soda, candy, and other desserts can be classified as Extras.)

  24. Have students compare their dinner lists to the Plate recommendations. Ask students to raise their hands if their dinner contained foods in each food group you name (name the five main groups one by one). Ask students whether they are eating a balanced diet and meeting their nutritional needs? Have students identify a food group they think they need to eat more from and a food group they need to eat less from.

  25. Discuss portion, or serving sizes for each food group. Examples: grains = one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of rice; fruit = one medium sized apple or ¾ cup of juice.

  26. Tell the students that calories are units of energy and are found in our food and drinks. It’s important to consume enough calories so that our bodies have the energy they need to grow and function. But when we consume more calories than we burn, they are stored in our bodies as fat—and this can lead to a variety of health problems. The number of calories that each person needs varies based on factors like age, height, weight, and how much we exercise.

  27. Point out that exercise is an important component of healthy living. Tell students that exercise burns the calories in the food we eat.

  28. Distribute copies of Lifestyle Log for students to record food, exercise, screen time and sleep each day. Tell students to complete the log for the past 24 hours and add the log to their journals. Give students additional copies of Lifestyle Log to fill in daily nutrition information on the days between classes..

  29. A good resource to help students calculate recommended caloric intake is .

  30. Reporting: Have students research what sleep is, why sleep is important, and the amount of sleep children, teens, adults, and seniors need to be healthy. Then have them study the My Pyramid resources and redesign the diagram to include sleep.

  31. Vocabulary: Students refer to the vocabulary cards for the SessionTwo words in Handouts 8 and 9. See Features Overview for ideas for student use of vocabulary words.

  32. Focus Activity Two (Estimated Time: 20 minutes)

  33. Introduce the Taste Testers activity (see Handout 1), and explain that small groups of students will take turns preparing interesting food(s) for the group to taste over the next several sessions. (Group selection and food group assignments will be determined at the end of the activity.)

  34. For this session, bring in a food for students to taste or to make with students, such as Monkeysicles (see recipe in Handout 6) or trail mix or granola. You may bring in different kinds of foods to compare, such as whole grain breads or vanilla yogurts (whole milk, low-fat, non-fat, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk) or fresh vegetables with an interesting low-fat dip.

  35. After tasting, have students record their critique in their journals. They write the name of the food(s) they taste, food groups represented, and their thoughts about the food (Did they like it? Would they eat it again? Which family members might like it?) Alternative: Use the optional handout Food Critic: Comparative (Handout 4)and have students add it to their journals.

  36. Taste Testers assignments: There are seven more sessions with Taste Testers activities. Students work in small groups to prepare foods for the class to taste or compare; each session a different group brings a food. The instructions below are for determining group assignments.

  37. Decide how many students need to be involved in each session. For example, if there are 21 students in the class, have students work in groups of three.Write student names on index cards and place in a bag. Pick a student name from the bag. Then have that student select cards from the bag to name the members of his or her group.

  38. On seven different cards, write a food group name and a date for that Taste Tester session. The seven groups determine the main ingredient of the Taste Tester food sample(s): Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk, Meat and Beans, Vegetables, and Fruits. For example, the grains Taste Tester session may be the following session. Place the seven cards in a second bag.

  39. For their food group assignments, have a volunteer from each group select a food group card from the second bag. Explain that their food group must be the main ingredient in their dish, but they are encouraged to include other food groups. For example, if you are making Monkeysicles (Handout 6for recipe) with the class, point out the three food groups used (fruit, grain, meat & beans) and that the main ingredient is banana, a fruit.

  40. Record student groups, their food group assignments, and the sessions they are responsible for on chart paper. Post this information for all to see.

  41. Session Three:

    Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 30 minutes) Promote teamwork with the activity Food Idioms Password that illustrates that food is so basic and essential a need that it is often used as a metaphor for experience. Examples: That’s the way the cookie crumbles. No use crying over spilled milk. Couch potato

  42. Play Food Idioms Password. Remind students what an idiom is (an expression having a meaning that cannot be derived logically from its literal meaning). List a few on the board to discuss: go bananas (act crazy); walk on eggshells (take care not to hurt a person’s feelings), salt away (save for later).

  43. Make the Password game cards: Give each pair of students 20 index cards. Have them write one food idiom on each card. Collect cards from each pair and wrap with a rubber band. Write the initials of the pair on the back of the top card. Mix up the packs of idiom cards and randomly redistribute. Be sure no pair gets the game cards they made.

  44. To Play Password: The object of the game is to identify as many idioms as possible in one minute.

    1. Give each pair of players a set of idiom cards. Have them mix up the cards face down, and place in two piles.
    2. Player One takes the first pile of cards, and looks at the first idiom card without showing it to Player Two. When Player One from each team is ready, start the timer. Player One gives clues without using the key words in the idiom. Player Two tries to guess the idiom. When player Two correctly identifies the idiom, he or she gets the card. Either player may say, “Pass” to move on to the next word.
    3. Play continues for one minute. The facilitator collects any unusedor passed idiom cards.
    4. Players switch roles and use the second pile of idiom cards.
    5. Scoring: Pairs score one point for each correctly identified idiom.
    6. Use the unused or passed idiom cards for a whole-class round. The facilitator gives clues, and students call out the idiomatic expression. The first player to identify the idiom gets the game card. Players add their card points to their pair’s total.

    Note: Collect and save the idiom cards to use for a What’s Your Health IQ? game booth at a street fair, block party, sports day, or other community celebrations.

  45. Ask the following reflection questions:

    • What kinds of foods seem to lend themselves to idioms?
    • Why do you think there are so many food-themed idioms? (Possibly because food is an essential component of life.)
  46. Reporting: Have students share their research from the previous session.

  47. Focus Activity One (Estimated Time: 15 minutes)

  48. Give students drawing paper to create a rough map of their route to school or of a local retail area. Have them include all the businesses and public areas, including pushcart vendors, parks, and playgrounds. (They will complete and refine their maps as part of Reporting.)

  49. Discuss the content of their maps by asking the following questions: How many places sell food? How many sell healthy foods? How many serve fast food? Then ask, does the neighborhood/community support or inhibit healthy eating?

  50. Discuss food services in school, including vending machines. Does the school environment support or inhibit healthy eating habits?

  51. Brainstorm ways to improve healthy eating options in school and the neighborhood/community. (See Service Project Suggestions for ideas.) List ideas on chart paper and display.

  52. Remind students of the Health Culture Self Survey (Handout 2) they did in the first session. Tell them they will fill out a similar survey that includes an analysis of the health habits in their home. Distribute the Home Health Survey (Handout 3) to complete at home and bring back for the next activity. The facilitator should also complete a Home Health Survey.

  53. Reporting: Have students complete and finalize their neighborhood/school route maps and bring to the next session along with their Home Health Surveys.

  54. Focus Activity Two (Estimated Time: 20 minutes) Review and discuss information gathered on the student-made maps and home surveys. Remember to respect student privacy when discussing the Home Health Survey by calling only on volunteers. Tell the students that a "food desert" is an area in a community where healthy and/or affordable food is hard to locate. Some urban areas do not have many fresh food choices. For families that live in a food desert the only place to buy food may be a convenience store.

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

  56. What do you think are the most urgent health needs in our school and the neighborhood?

  57. What did you learn from your Home Health Surveys? What have these surveys made you more aware of?

  58. How can you help your families have healthier food choices at home?

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

  60. What nonprofit organizations support communities and people that do not have access to enough healthy food? (Discuss the difference between a nonprofit, a business, and a government agency.) And example of a nonprofit is Feeding America or a local soup kitchen or pantry or a faith-based organization.

  61. Taste Testers: Have the assigned student group share their food samples with the class. Distribute Food Critic: Comparative forms for students to complete. Discuss student analysis of the foods.

  62. Reporting: Have students bring in a favorite family recipe for a healthy dish. Recipes can be collected to make a fundraising cookbook called Healthy Foods Families REALLY Eat (see Service Project Suggestions Handout 7)

  63. Vocabulary: Students refer to vocabulary cards for the Session Three words in Handouts 8 and 9. See Features Overview for ideas for student use of vocabulary words.

  64. Session Four: Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 10 minutes) Facilitator introduces the theme of the day: Exercise. Remind students of the three components of a healthy lifestyle: healthy food, exercise, and sleep. Explain that today they will discuss exercise.

  65. Assess prior knowledge by asking students why exercise is part of healthy living (physical activity strengthens muscles, burns calories, provides energy, feels good, is fun). Also ask students what happens to their bodies when they exercise (exercise warms the body, increases heart rate, stretches muscles, causes sweat, and increases breath rate).

  66. Pair students. Have students calculate their own “resting” heart rate. and record it on a piece of paper then have them check their partner’s resting hear rate. (One method of calculcating a heart rate is by counting for 10 seconds and then multiplying by 6)

  67. Next, have students stand on tiptoes with their hands on the backs of their chairs. Facilitator says, “Go!” and students run in place as fast as they can for 60 seconds. At the end of 60 seconds, have pairs calculate their heart rates again and record

  68. Ask the following reflection questions:

    • Whose resting heart rate was between 60 and 100? (Explain that this is average.)
    • What happened to your heart rate after one minute of running? (It went up.) What other physical differences do you notice? (Students should also observe heavier breathing.)
  69. Explain that the heart is a strong muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. The harder the body works, the faster the heart pumps. Ask, “Do you think the heart works harder or not as hard if your body is physically fit? Why?” (Explain that the heart muscle works more efficiently when your body is physically fit. A strong and fit heart requires less energy and fewer beats per minute to pump blood throughout our bodies. A slower resting heart rate is an indication of a fit and healthy heart.)

  70. Reporting: Have students share their research from the previous session.

  71. Focus Activity One (Estimated Time: 35 minutes) Ask students why exercise is important. Discuss (it keeps hearts healthy, builds strong muscles, gives us energy, and relieves stress).

  72. View video (NOTE: There are other YouTube videos in this location that may be more age appropriate for your group)

  73. Have the students wear good shoes or take off their shoes. Clear the desks so they have room to move. Play the video through once, and then pause the video after each section to give students time to practice the steps. Repeat until the class knows the whole routine. Practice the routine as a group.

  74. Tell students they will perform and teach the routine to other classes/groups in the school. Have students work in small groups to create raps to introduce the dance. Their raps should include information about healthy eating and the importance of exercise.

  75. Have groups perform their raps for the class. Work together to combine the raps to make one the whole class can perform. Rehearse the rap and dance.

  76. Arrange for students to perform their healthy-living rap and dance for other classes in the school with the goal of showing others the importance and fun of exercise for healthy living.

  77. Distribute copies of Lifestyle Log (Handout 5) for students to complete at home, reminding them to record the time spent learning the dance routine under Exercise.

  78. Focus Activity Two (Estimated Time: 20-30 minutes) Students read and share exercise-related news articles.

  79. Divide the class into groups of three students each. Select news articles (see Biographical References) and give one article or one set of articles to each group. Article subjects are related to the benefits of physical activity. Have groups read their articles, summarize the information, and prepare a presentation of the information for the class. Encourage a variety of presentation formats, including a newscast, flow chart, graph or song.

  80. After each presentation, have the group ask follow-up questions they would like more information about. List the questions on the board and save for Reporting (for further research).

  81. Taste Testers: Have the assigned student group share their food samples with the class. Distribute Food Critic: Comparative forms for students to complete. Discuss student analysis of the foods.

  82. Reporting: Have students select a follow-up question from the board (generated after the article presentations), or they may come up with their own related question to research.

  83. Vocabulary: Students refer to vocabulary cards for the Session Four words in Handouts 8 and 9. See Features Overview for ideas for student use of vocabulary words.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.