Food lessons for life
Isla Gray, Food Preparation & Nutrition Teacher at Kings’ School Al Barsha talks about the importance of nutritional education and its place in the curriculum and school community
A committed advocate for the future of domestic sciences in schools, and with Kings’ School Al Barsha just one of a handful of UAE secondary schools that has a food technology department, for Isla Gray, Food Preparation & Nutrition Teacher, it is “extremely important that [nutrition and healthy eating] is embedded in the curriculum for all children.”
At Kings’ Al Barsha, this starts from KS3, and follows the National Curriculum for England design and technology framework, which stipulates that ’all KS3 pupils are required to understand and apply the principles of nutrition and learn how to cook’ with each school year building on healthy eating messaging and nutrition basics, to develop knowledge and skills.
Kings’ School Al Barsha is also active when it comes to implementing nutrition or healthy eating-centric initiatives, as Gray explains: “The food technology facilities are also used by Mozart, our additional needs department, and some primary classes.
“Enterprise links including the primaries’ ‘grow your own’ have also made use of our food technology facilities. It’s great that these students get to develop their knowledge around food in a practical, fun and engaging manner.”
She also runs the Tasty TV extra-curricular activity, where students with a keen interest in food can come along, make a dish and are filmed. “These clips are useful teaching and learning tools in a ‘flipped learning’ environment. The students love the entire experience and viewing themselves in action!” she says.
Previous success with a school-wide healthy eating week is another initiative that Gray is keen to run for the next academic year.
With Ramadan on the horizon, the school has special provisions in place for those children who will be fasting, as she explains: “In the classroom environment, we are very mindful of the restrictions in place for fasting students.
“I feel that coming to food technology during this period is a great platform to learn about nutrition and ensure that students, who are in a position to pass on the knowledge on to their families, can ensure they are continuing to consume the right foods with a balance of nutrients required.”
Victoria Browne, school nurse, Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba, weighs in on the healthy eating focus at her school
At what age can you start introducing a child to the concept of nutrition?
It’s important to introduce the concept of healthy eating to children as early as possible, and equally important to support parents. At Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba we introduce this from FS1 and it continues to play an important part of their learning through to year six. We tailor the way we talk about nutrition to different year groups, for example, in FS we have introduced the idea of eating a rainbow, and in primary we talk about eating from different food groups. We also have healthy eating displays in all our dining halls.
How can parents get hands-on with nutrition in the home?
Make easy child-friendly meals at home together by following simple recipes. Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba publishes easy-to-do healthy recipes in its Geronimo newsletter, but there is a wealth of recipes available online
Sit down with your child when you are meal planning at the beginning of the week and get them involved. Discuss what you will be eating for the week ahead (with a focus on healthy ingredients and preparation) and, with guidance, let them input their own ideas
Give your child a task during meal times. If they aren’t old enough to help prepare food or cook, get them to help create a menu, lay the table or serve the meal. This enables them to be part of the process and engaged.
What kind of in-school initiatives have been successful at Kings’ Nad Al Sheba
Healthy eating certificates for those eating healthy lunches. Children who receive the most certificates each month become healthy eating champions and appear on our wall of fame. We have also introduced rainbow charts for the FS children to document when they eat a rainbow, earning them a certificate.
We include a healthy recipe in every edition of our Geronimo newsletter.
We are taking advantage of our state-of-the-art STEAM facility to offer more practical lessons to show children how to prepare healthy food. Our FS1 children recently made their own wholemeal bread rolls and FS2 made guacamole and sushi, while year 6 carried out experiments on how lifestyle choices can affect our bodies.
We carry out health promotion assemblies covering topics from healthy eating to healthy living.
Our PE department has been getting children to follow Joe Wicks’ School Workouts and, in November 2017, the entire school also participated in the Dubai 30×30 Challenge.