Compass Montessori students learn to ‘eat a rainbow’

Program teaches students, parents about healthier food choices

Posted 3/12/19

Eat a rainbow, Heather Aardema said to about 110 of Compass Montessori-Golden Campus’ first-through-sixth graders. Aardema was not talking about the Skittles advertising slogan. She was talking …

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Compass Montessori students learn to ‘eat a rainbow’

Program teaches students, parents about healthier food choices

Posted

Eat a rainbow, Heather Aardema said to about 110 of Compass Montessori-Golden Campus’ first-through-sixth graders.

Aardema was not talking about the Skittles advertising slogan. She was talking about eating a colorful plateful of phytonutrients — natural compounds found in plant-based foods such as some fruits and vegetables.

“It takes a lot of energy to get through the school day,” said Aardema, a national board-certified health and wellness coach and functional nutrition educator. And “food has an impact on how kids experience their school day.”

It can impact a student’s creativity, desire for physical activity, attention span, participation in the lessons and even willingness to learn new ideas, Aardema added.

Inspired by Jeffco Public Schools’ Jeffco Healthy Schools initiative, which strives “to support culture, policy and environments that promote healthy lifestyle choices, life skills and attitudes,” states its website, Aardema put on a FOOD MATTERS program at Compass Montessori-Golden, 4441 Salvia St.

“The FOOD MATTERS program was beneficial to the children because it brought an awareness of ‘eating the rainbow’ to them,” said Christy Curton, a classroom guide for Compass Montessori-Golden’s first-through-third graders who helped facilitate the FOOD MATTERS program. “For parents, it was beneficial to hear Aardema talk about the effects on our bodies and brains, and the ease in preparation of healthy food.”  

The program was two-fold. Earlier in the school year, the first-through-sixth graders created rainbow plates in Nathan Ginn’s art class. This was a hands-on activity, made out of paper plates, for the students to learn the benefits of eating a variety of colorful foods, Aardema said. The idea is for each student to take their plate home to serve as a reminder to have a rainbow on each dinner plate, Aardema said.

The second part was the FOOD MATTERS workshops. Two interactive workshops took place on March 7 for the students — one for grades one-through-three and one for grades four-through-six.

“Eating healthy is good because it opens the door to a healthy life and a healthy life gives you freedom,” said fourth-grader Ben Smith, 9. “It helps you be smart and agile.”

Maizy Freestone, 11, agreed.

“Certain foods make you feel good while other foods can make you feel bad,” Freestone said. “Like drinking lots of soda.”

The students were incredibly engaged and everyone wanted to share what they know about food and eating healthy, Aardema said.

“Food is a topic that that’s fun talk about,” she added, “because everybody knows a little something about food.”

FOOD MATTERS also included a parent workshop later in the evening on March 7.

“If parents want their children to eat healthier, it begins with the parents and what they bring into the house,” Aardema said. “The goal is for the kids to feel comfortable with starting the conversation about healthier food choices.”

Sixth-grader Soren Barrientos, 12, chose nutrition as the topic for her empowerment project. The project entails an in-depth study of a topic with a research paper and three other main components, Barrientos explained. Barrientos said for the language component, she intends to conduct interviews with nutritionists; she will use graphs to demonstrate the point of healthy eating for the math component; and Barrientos is thinking about touring a food production facility for the experience component.

“I chose nutrition because a lot of people need to know more about it,” Barrientos said. “I hope I can fill everyone in on it (nutrition), and that they learn more about it.”

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