By Melissa Talley
It has been about 15 years since I sat in the miniature chairs and knee-high tables in a low-ceiling elementary school. This past week I not only stepped inside an elementary school for the first time since then but was on the reverse end teaching, conducting, and instructing. My partner Becky and I had the chance to teach kids grades 2-4 about sustainable living and growing your own vegetables with the Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) program. We traveled to different schools in counties all over Maryland to educate these young, energetic kiddos. During this three-week rotation, I realized that as a teacher I often was learning as much from the children as they were learning from me. Here are a few things I learned while being “Miss Melissa” these past couple weeks.
They Want to be Healthy
As a dietetic Intern for 8 months I have realized that it is extremely hard for adults to want to be healthy. Unless a significant health issue arises, why would they spend hours on a garden growing vegetables when they can spend 5 minutes at a fast food drive-thru? While teaching these sustainable lessons where the kids saw where their vegetables were coming from, I received feedback that every dietetic intern wants to hear including, “I love eating this lettuce in my salads,” and, “Can we take it home so we can have some for dinner?”
Eager to Learn
Aside from actually wanting to consume the healthy vegetables, children are unique in that they genuinely want to know what sustainability is, what is so great about fruits and vegetables, and how they can include more of them in their life. While they want to learn more, many of them already know a lot about saving the environment by recycling, picking up trash, and saving water. On my first day I was surprised when I saw how eager they were to learn about nutrition, which made me excited to not only teach the lesson, but also influence their lives in a healthy, sustainable way.
High Energy is Inevitable
With all this excitement to be healthy and eagerness to learn, comes a great deal of energy. I learned that when working with this age group, I needed to be ready to use my teaching voice. After teaching 4, 45 minute lessons in a day, I realized how difficult it is to control, quiet, and calm your students, but also how rewarding it is knowing you are changing so many children’s lives in a positive way.
These past three weeks have been extremely impactful for my experience as a dietetic intern. With an interest in pediatrics already, this rotation only made me more excited to become a registered dietitian and continue teaching children and families about how important it is to incorporate good nutrition into their daily lives. What better way to do that than having the children grow their own vegetables? Thank you to FSNE for such a great, unforgettable experience!