Health education gets a federal boost

“Instead of a teacher or expert talking to the students, we like to re-enact a classroom, playground, or home scenario. And we usually end the scenario with a discussion question,” Arunski said.

Mark Kittleson, professor of public health education at Southern Illinois University, said using technology in school health programs might still be the exception, not the norm—but that is quickly changing.

“Technology is certainly a critical part that we should be incorporating, but I’ve seen a lot of reluctance among education,” he said. Today’s kids are using many technologies outside of class, he added, “and to ignore it would be pretty ridiculous.”

Kittleson noted that many schools ban students from using cell phones in class, but he argued that teachers should embrace smart-phone applications in their lessons.

“Teachers should be prepped to show kids that when they go to McDonald’s and they want to find out how many calories are in a Big Mac, if they have a smart phone, they can find out in a matter of seconds,” he said.

Apple’s Apps Store contains dozens of health-related applications for the iPhone or iPod Touch such as tools that can help users count calories, monitor their fitness, and even access nutritional information on a variety of foods.

Teachers also can use Facebook or other social-networking tools as a way to include parents in the health-education process, Kittleson said.

“I can see where a teacher could have a Facebook page, and students and parents can go there to find out information about what students are learning and what assignments are,” he said, adding: “Parents play a critical role in the health of students.”

That’s part of the reasoning behind a Toronto company’s decision to put its health-education curriculum online.

In response to the growing demand for supplemental materials that students can access outside of school, Core Learning President and Chief Executive Officer Doug Hatch has begun creating an online component to the curriculum software his company has offered for years.

“Health really starts in the home,” Hatch explained. “If we want kids’ health and hygiene to be better, it helps if moms and dads really know what their children are learning about health.”

By offering its curriculum online, Core Learning hopes to help parents get involved in their children’s health education as well.

“There’s much [that parents] can learn from the curriculum, too,” Hatch said.

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