„It is impossible to educate the mind without the body. Learning is thinking and movement integrated.“
Healthy meals equal healthy minds, and as the caretakers of young minds we have a duty to ensure that the nutritional needs of all our children are being met right alongside their educational requirements.
We know from the abundance of research on the relationship between health and academic achievement that a balanced diet enables optimal performance for our students.
Children learn how to read, write, and think in the classroom. This should be extended into learning how to eat healthy. Mealtime at school provides a great opportunity to do some “hands-on” learning about healthy eating.
Bloom Earth School
By cultivating the land near the school and maintaining the forest behind, Bloom Earth School is contributing to the holistic development of children through an integrated and multidisciplinary approach to understanding the natural environment. Students from every age learn from hands on experience about plant growth processes, soil, ecosystems, water, animal presence, for example. They witness life cycles following the seasons.
With age and experience, students increase their level of understanding on topics such as agricultural practices and food production, gain practical knowledge when cutting wood, weeding or working the land. They also acquire concentration, observation, perseverance, patience, the capacity for sustained efforts and a spirit of service. Produce from the cultivated plots are used by our kitchen in the preparation of the school's meals.
Nature and Movement
Children are spontaneous observers of nature and, all over the world, there is a movement to re-connect children with nature. Indeed, a growing body of research demonstrates the benefits of spending time in nature on a regular basis for the child's brain, body and spirit. Being outdoors gives children many opportunities for natural movement which has very much disappeared from modern children's sedentary lives. Movement is fundamental for a healthy body but it is also crucial for the development of the brain. At Bloom, we offer children many opportunities to learn in nature and explore their natural need for movement. Some of the benefits of spending time in nature:
Gross Motor Skills
Children challenge their vestibular system also known as their “balance system” and coordination by moving in all directions while climbing trees, scaling rock walls, rolling down grassy hills, and running from one place to the next. They develop strength and endurance by hiking up hills, carrying heavy rocks, bricks, and sticks.
Focus and Attention
Children have improved attention when they play outside on a regular basis. Moving helps to activate and ignite the brain to pay attention.
Moving on a regular basis improves the vestibular system, which helps to support all six eye muscles. Children also work on skills such as visual tracking when searching for things out in nature.
Playing outdoors provides ample opportunities for children to naturally practice auditory discrimination skills, such as listening to the differences between a Robin's call and a Chickadee's call.
Fine Motor Skills
Grabbing hold of heavy and large objects such as limbs of a tree help to develop strong grasping patterns in little hands – getting the hands ready to do finer and more delicate work such as holding a pencil. Our activities such as embroidery, moulding clay, and working with alpaca fibre help to fine-tune these motor skills.
Unstructured playtime in the great outdoors, leads to creative social adventures among the children. They create their own societies out in the woods, build structures together as a group, play pretend with peers, and come up with their own games.
Playing outside inspires children to think independently and openly and to follow their natural inspiration.
Nutrition at Bloom
Letter from the Bloom nutritionist and parent, Amela Ivković O'Reilly:
"Many children consume at least half of their meals at school, and for many children, food served at school may be the only food they regularly eat.
What is good food?
Good food means a wide variety of fresh foods from the main food groups – fruit, vegetables, grains, lean meats, fish, poultry. Each food group provides different nutrients. That is why we need to eat a range of foods from across all the food groups.
Fruit and vegetables help protect your child’s body against all kinds of diseases. This is because fruit and veggies provide energy, vitamins, antioxidants, fibre and water.
Starchy foods and grains give your child the energy it needs to grow, develop and learn. These foods include bread, rice, pasta and noodles. We always use the wholegrain variety, for longer lasting energy!
Lean meat, fish, chicken and meat alternatives such as eggs, beans (legumes) cheese and nuts give your child iron, zinc, vitamin B12, omega 3 fatty acids, and protein for growth and muscle development.
Iron and omega-3 fatty acids are particularly important for your child’s brain development and learning.
Water is the best drink for your child! Sweet drinks – which include fruit juice, cordials, sports drinks, flavoured waters, soft drinks and flavoured milks – can fill your child up with sugar. This might mean he/she won’t want to eat her meals! Drinking sweet drinks can also contribute to weight gain and obesity and tooth decay. If kids start on these drinks when they’re young, it can kick off a lifelong habit. Always avoid all sugary drinks!
By eating a range of different healthy foods, your child can get the best possible nutrition for growth, development and learning. When children learn about and eat good food from an early age, they can develop healthy habits for life.
Healthy food and eating for pre-schoolers
Your pre-schooler needs lots of energy for play and learning. A good breakfast is important – it helps your child get a good start to his/her daily nutritional needs. Your child might still be a fussy eater at this age. If she’s not keen on trying new foods, you could get her to help you with choosing and preparing healthy family meals. When children have a say in their food, they’re more likely to eat it!
Healthy food and eating for school-age children
At this age, your child might have a busy social life, his own pocket money to spend and some definite preferences when it comes to food. He’ll also be influenced by friends and trends, so it’s a great time to reinforce messages about healthy foods. For example, you can explain to your child that a healthy breakfast can help her concentrate on schoolwork and have lots of energy for the day. Sharing healthy meals and snacks with your school-age child can encourage him to eat nutritious food and to develop a regular eating routine.
Healthy food and eating for teenagers
Your adolescent child will explore her increasing independence through her food choices. She/he will also experience lots of new pressures in her life. All of this makes healthy school and family meals and role-modelling important during this time.
Tracking from childhood to adulthood
Over the last 25 years, rates of obesity have risen in many countries around the world. Some researchers have called it an “international epidemic of childhood obesity”. It is very important to prevent and manage obesity in children as there is a high risk that the problem will persist into adulthood. Obese children have a 25-50% per cent chance of being obese adults, however, this possibility can be as high as 78% for older obese adolescents. Obese adults who were overweight as adolescents have a higher risk of weight-related ill health and early death than adults who became obese in adulthood.
Being overweight or obese puts a significant strain on our bodies and leads to many health problems in adults, such as muscle and bone complaints, cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, sleep disorders, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Many of these health problems are preventable by leading a healthy lifestyle. Once a child is overweight or obese, it is unlikely that he or she will return to a healthy weight without some deliberate, remedial action. If overweight or obese children do not attain a healthy weight, they are more likely to develop weight-related health problems when they become older. Obese children and adolescents suffer from an increased range of medical conditions. For example, the rate of Type 2 diabetes is increasing in children and adolescents. Other problems include sleep disturbances, heat intolerance, breathlessness when active, tiredness and flat feet. Obese children, particularly older girls, also tend to have lower self-esteem. The current estimates are that 1 in 3 children born after the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime if we do not change our eating habits and activity patterns. We simply cannot stand idly by and watch this happen. Action must be taken to improve the lives of our kids. That’s why it’s so important to bring healthy foods back into our schools and Bloom has done it from the very beginning.
The food movement is at a crossroads, and each of us is in charge of the direction it takes. We in Bloom, are fighting to take the food movement towards a system that is conscious and respectful of the health of the environment, the quality of the food, the safety of our growers, and the future of consumers, especially our kids. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a largely agricultural country and we are very lucky to be able to provide our children in Bloom with locally and organically produced food."
This results in a WIN-WIN-WIN scenario of Healthy Kids, Healthy Food, and a Healthy Planet!