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PT Students Teach Fourth-Graders About Healthy Living

Program Supports Lincoln Elementary’s ‘Fit for Learning’ Theme

Fourth-grade Lincoln Elementary student examines an Oreo food label.

By Karen Angelo

Studies show that a child’s readiness to learn and academic achievement are compromised by poor nutrition and lack of physical activity. To help combat this trend, UMass Lowell physical therapy students worked with the Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Lowell to teach fourth-graders how to make healthy choices when it comes to nutrition, fitness and other aspects of their lives.

The UMass Lowell students designed lesson plans that integrate nutritional education and physical activity into the classroom. The goal is to provide children with a foundation to establish healthy lifestyles for the rest of their lives.

James Knowles, Allison Locke and David Thu, doctorate candidates from UMass Lowell’s Physical Therapy Program, piloted the curriculum, which included teaching students how to read food labels and the importance of physical activity. The opportunity to develop the curriculum, and then teach the fourth graders, gave the physical therapy students real-world experience with instant feedback.

“Creating and sustaining partnerships through service-learning projects like this one supports competency development for UMass students and addresses a need in the community, in this case increasing physical activity and improving nutrition for the children at the Lincoln Elementary School,” says Asst. Prof. Deirdra Murphy of the UMass Lowell Physical Therapy Department.

The health and wellness curriculum is being created to support next year’s “Fit for Learning” theme at the Lincoln Elementary School.

“I’ve seen the difference in children’s behavior in classrooms when students have more opportunities for physical activity,” said Elise Bradley, a fourth-grade teacher at the School.

For photos of the visit to Lincoln School, see the University's photo gallery.

David Thu explains why understanding food labels is important to good health.