A message from YouthBASE:
If you asked one of our students at YouthBASE exactly what living well meant, I could guarantee you a variety of answers. Mya, a 7 yea-old, might tell you that living well is eating only fruits and vegetables. Javier, an 8 year-old, might tell you living well is playing soccer and basketball all the time. And Sincere, another 8 year-old, might tell you that in order to live well you must try new things to figure out what you like. At YouthBASE we try to encompass as many nuances as possible into our own definition of living well. At YouthBASE, we want our students to succeed in every aspect of life, and we realize living well is important to becoming an active, healthy member of society. Because of this, we at YouthBASE constantly engage in activities connected to living well.
Every weekday afternoon the students come to our program afterschool. The first activity on our schedule is eating a healthy snack! Usually this snack consists of a piece (or couple pieces) of fruit, as well as some sort of protein. We want our students to be engaged throughout our program. To ensure that hunger, or even worse a sugar rush from an unhealthy snack, doesn’t take over, the healthy afternoon snack is essential. We also try to incorporate new foods into these snack to provide our students with variety. At YouthBASE we have a saying: “take a bite and see if you like it.” This helps our children constantly do our best to provide healthy, yummy snacks each day of the program. However, we do realize that the children eat most of their daily diets when they are not at YouthBASE. Thus we do provide food education as well.
We provide education in a variety of ways at YouthBASE. Our students really connect with the idea of go, slow, and whoa foods. We have posters on the walls, one for each group of foods (go, slow, and whoa.) periodically as a group we will discuss the different groups and how they factor into our lives. This has been a wonderful tool for teaching the kindergarten through second graders about the food they put into their bodies each day. Just last week I talked to Petrona, a 7 year-old in our program, about chicken and where it fits on the posters. We learned chicken is a go food when grilled, but a whoa food when it is fried. It can be challenging for students to understand how preparing the same item in different ways change the group it fits into. However, by talking it through, our students are able to understand more and more what is good for their growing bodies and what is not.
My personal favorite of the YouthBASE living well initiative is our own little garden. Our garden is not big, just two 3×6 foot boxes, but we are able to grow a little bit of everything. From kale to strawberries, beets to cucumber, we love variety. When deciding what we would grow, a kindergartner wanted to grow pickles. We are growing cucumbers and will make pickles. The students are involved in the whole process as well, which is so much fun for us and them! From tilling the soil, planting the seeds, keeping everything watered, weeding and tasting the final product, it gives the students a whole new experience. The children become so invested in the garden, consistently asking to water the plants and go check on everything. Once something has bloomed, such as strawberries, we harvest the produce and then all try it! It’s a wonderful experience all around.
Of course another aspect of living well is wholesome exercise. Each day after our snack we play outside for 20 to 30 minutes. This time gives the students a chance to stretch not only their legs, but also their minds. The students play tag, jump rope, play basketball and catch with each other and staff. We make sure there are opportunities for structured outdoor play using CATCH games and free play. Playing together in groups works on social skills as well as collaboration. It’s also just a lot of fun!
At YouthBASE we don’t stop the living well education within the walls of our program, but try to extend those skills into the homes of our families. Each month we send home a newsletter with a section about living well. It has not only fun healthy recipes, but also games to help the family more together.
Overall at YouthBASE we truly strive to promote living well as part of a daily lifestyle and hope we can increase that as the years go on.