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Middle, high school students know how to Eat Smart, Play Hard

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. - Eating healthy foods and exercising is good for body and mind but, did you know it can also be fun?

Alamogordo High School students organize a game of jump rope with Sacramento Elementary School children as part of the Eat Smart, Play Hard program. For the program, the teenagers taught the third-grade students the importance of eating well and getting lots of exercise, as well as the value of getting good grades in school.(NMSU photo by Audry Olmsted)

A third-grade class at Sacramento Elementary School in Alamogordo learned this recently when middle and high school students taught them how to make nutritious and simple snacks, and also get their exercise by playing games.

Students from Mountain View Middle School and Alamogordo High School visited the third-graders as part of Eat Smart, Play Hard, a program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture - Food and Nutrition Service, designed to help teach children and parents that eating right and staying physically fit leads to a healthy lifestyle.

April Cray Rhodes, an ICAN (Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition) nutrition educator with the Cooperative Extension Service who coordinates Eat Smart, Play Hard for Otero County, said she has her middle school students observe her as she teaches the third grade class. Then, the last class of the program, the middle and high school students take over and lead the activities.

"It motivated the teenagers to come up with a fun, quick, easy, simple recipe that a third-grader can make and develop what kind of exercises they can do that are fun," Cray Rhodes said.

For the last class, the students taught the youngsters how to make peanut butter and oatmeal balls before taking them outside for games of football and jump rope.

The teenagers also talked with the third-graders about the time and effort they put into school, and their extracurricular activities.

Cray Rhodes said they had to research to find a recipe for the kids that did not involve using any kitchen appliances or dangerous utensils, not an easy task. They also had to fit all their planned activities into the one 45-minute class.

"It really helps the child so that they're safe, yet they're eating something fun before they go outside and play with their friends," she said. "This gives them the tools to do that."

Cray Rhodes said the students, who are enrolled in either home economics or consumer sciences classes at their schools, did a fantastic job interacting with the third-graders.

The middle and high school students said they too learned from this experience.

Fabiene Wilson, 17, and Dela Joyner, 18, said talking with the elementary students is a good way to give them responsible role models to look up to.

It also gives the youngsters a chance to get a view of their life when they get to high school, said Tyler Josselyn, 17.

"With hard work and great eating comes great reward," said Marcus Oakley, 17.

Cray Rhodes said Curtis Benson, third-grade teacher, is excited to have his class sign up again next year for the Eat Smart, Play Hard program as his students were able to use what they learned in the program to answer questions on their state tests.

The high school students who participated in the program at Sacramento were: Dave Dorton, 17: Clinton Graham, 17; Josselyn, 17; Dela Joyner, 18; Matti Joyner, 15; Oakley, 17; Savannah Stockton, 18; Shelby Trujillo, 18; Wilson, 17; and Bobby Wride, 18.

The middle school students were: Lorena Baca, 13; Norma Cardona, 13; Ragan Cole, 13; Tatiana Duran, 14; Samantha Luevano, 14; Raquel Martinez, 13; Sharlyne Meraz, 14; Melissa Moreno, 14; Montana Paxton, 14; Eric Silva, 14; Cassie Woods, 14; and Kaycee Wright, 13.