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NMSU extension educators encourage high school, elementary students to 'Eat Smart, Play Hard'

Educators at the New Mexico State University New Mexico State University Dona Ana County Extension Office are encouraging local elementary and high school students to make healthy choices through the Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition program.



Las Cruces High School students assist Bertha Silva, Ideas for Cooking and Nutrition educator for the Dona Ana County Extension Office, and their Family and Consumer Science teacher Anita Cummings as they teach Mesilla Elementary third graders about nutrition and staying physically fit through the ICAN "Eat Smart, Play Hard" Connections Program. (Submitted Photo).

The ICAN "Eat Smart, Play Hard" Connections Program is currently being taught at Las Cruces High School with Anita Cummings' Family and Consumer Science class and to third graders at Mesilla Elementary School.

ICAN is a U.S Department of Agriculture funded program that teaches basic nutrition and engages participants in hands-on food preparation activities.

"Our goal is to promote nutrition and health and to reduce the risk for obesity and chronic diseases," said ICAN Home Economist Gayla Weaver. "It's the first time all of these pieces are really being connected in the county."

Goals for the ICAN "Eat Smart, Play Hard" Connections Program also include fostering positive behavior change to promote nutrition and health and encouraging families to adopt behaviors which are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid.

Bertha Silva, ICAN nutrition educator for the Dona Ana County Extension Office, is making the "connection" between the Dona Ana County Cooperative Extension Program; the Las Cruces High School FCS Department; Family, Career and Community Leaders of America chapters and third grade classes at Mesilla Elementary School.

After the conclusion of Silva's classes with the LCHS students, the students shadow Silva as she teachers ICAN "Eat Smart, Play Hard" classes to third graders at Mesilla Elementary School. After the fourth lesson, the LCHS students plan, prepare and present the final "We've Got the Power" lesson to the third graders under the supervision of Silva and Cummings.

"It's intergenerational learning and helps both sets of students learn about the importance of their health," Silva said. "The third graders tend to really listen to and look up to the high school students because they are more like older brothers or sisters. Plus, some of the high school students might even get inspired to become teachers one day."

For more information, contact Silva at bsilva@nmsu.edu or Weaver at gweaver@nmsu.edu.