Harvard Discovers a New Planet

Researchers at Harvard University collaborated with teachers and principals of public middle schools to create an incredible interdisciplinary curriculum. Planet Health was developed with the vision to improve cardiovascular health and to lower obesity rates in adolescents of sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. The message behind the theory is simple- nutritious eating and exercise improve the overall state of health, and thus contributes to a better quality of life. This humble idea seems commonplace, however, obesity rates among adolescents continues to rise. It’s not so much the message that Planet Health promotes, but the means of delivery that shines so brightly. Interdisciplinary learning has become quite trendy, and based on its success, it will not go out of style anytime soon. Planet Health’s curriculum intermingles beautifully with language arts, math, science, social studies, and physical education, and at Healthy Teens, interdisciplinary curricula is always knuckle bump worthy.

Planet Health’s objectives don’t stop at vegetables and cycling; the push to decrease television watching among adolescents is at the forefront of their motives. Why? Because most people watch TV with their glutes glued to the couch, thus encouraging the act of being sedentary. Furthermore, the plethora of commercials showing deep-dish pizza slices dripping with glistening cheese (in slow-motion nonetheless), appeal to the devil on our left shoulders.

The CDC is an advocate for Planet Health based on some recent studies. One study showed that girls who participate in Planet Health were less likely to engage in eating disorder behaviors. Boston Public Schools partnered with Planet Health, and even ran a test curriculum to see if it could still offer success in six inner-city middle schools with limited resources. The CDC funded the research, and found that 90% of teachers found the program effective among their students. Massachusetts is only one of forty-eight states that have purchased the Planet Health curriculum.

So what does this curriculum entail? The second edition, which can be purchased with the click of a finger, includes up-to-date nutrition and physical activity information. It also comes with a CD-ROM that provides worksheets and many other ready-to-use resources. Thirty-five lesson plans are at your fingertips, as well as a FitCheck self-assessment tool so students can track their activity levels. The website offers resources to help teachers connect with parents on this mission for improving the health of their children, including newsletter samples and interactive fact sheets.

At Healthy Teens, we believe in the power of interdisciplinary curricula, especially when pairing with the subject we have no choice but to engage in for a lifetime- health. We have spread word to our fellow teachers, administrators, and parents about this program that simply makes sense, and is easy to implement. We just ordered our copy of Planet Health, and we encourage you to do the same!

A Place for Teens to Seek Answers

KidshealthIs there any danger to smoking e-cigarettes? How can I lessen my test-taking anxiety? How much sleep do I need? Why is my voice changing? These are questions that teens desire to ask, but often are afraid to do out of fear of embarrassment, or even just inaccessible resources.  TeensHealth is a friendly and honest website for teenagers to explore information regarding physical and emotional health topics. Available 24 hours a day, pediatricians and other medical experts offer the straight answers to any and every health question that teens may have. The site also offers a tab for kids, and another for parents. KidsHealth and TeensHealth was created from the nonprofit organization Nemours. In 1936, philanthropist Alfred I. DuPont started Nemours with the vision of improving the health and spirit of children. Also, the Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media has consistently delivered health education in a comfortable and engaging manner.

The TeensHealth site is easy for young people to navigate. While creating a supportive environment where teens can ask literally anything, they are combating the fear that often accompanies asking a health practitioner or parent face-to-face. They are also bringing the power of cultivating health literacy into their own hands. Categories on the site include food and fitness, sexual health, drugs and alcohol, and many other healthful and helpful areas. The site covers most frequently asked or sought questions, while leaving plenty of opportunity for Q&A.

A favorite tool offered on the site is the Making a Change goal tracker. This feature breaks down goals into manageable steps, so teens can track their progress and celebrate successes. The featured articles are also a huge hit, and you can even listen to them via the audio tool. This month, a relevant article elaborates on Seasonal Affective Disorder, which most teens feel but do not understand the origin. Videos are also a plenty. Check out this informative video on bullying, created by seven teens with true-life experiences.

The parent tab offers similar categories to kids and teens, but fosters relative responses. Topics vary and include how to communicate with your teenager, fire safety plans, and even recipes. The KidsHealth in the Classroom tab offers teachers guides and lesson plans from preschool through grade 12.

This is such an empowering opportunity for teenagers to search, discover, learn, and take action for their own physical and emotional health. Now is the time for them to cultivate power and spread what they know. After all, they are our future mentors and leaders.