Seventh graders get tasty lessons on healthy eating

Liberty Middle School seventh grade students recently learned about the health benefits of consuming local foods and the farm-to-table philosophy thanks to Foster Hospitality and its nonprofit, A Single Bite.

This is the second year LMS and A Single Bite have partnered in this program, which is coordinated by Sara Hazlenis, a LCS alumna. 

A chef prepares a meal as students sit at tables“This program is a great way for students to see different foods that are produced locally, and get them out of their comfort zone by trying new foods that are prepared fresh,” said seventh grade health and PE teacher Rich Feeney.

In January, Kyle Goldstein, A Single Bite presenter and LCS alumnus, visited classes and discussed health and nutrition related statistics for New York state and Sullivan County. Chef Peter Yurasits prepared three “bites” for students to taste and then discuss characteristics of each with their classmates. All ingredients came from different areas of the county, and each student was encouraged to try “A Single Bite” of each snack. 

A person talks to students in a greenhouseThe bites included cheddar cheese on a Granny Smith apple, smoked trout on cucumber, and a potato pancake with applesauce.

Students then took a field trip to Sprouting Dreams Farms in February where they were given the opportunity to explore the grounds with farmer Eugene Thalmann. He discussed goal setting and using resources, as well as conducted a tour of his vegetable farm, which includes three greenhouses that he discussed the purpose for each during the tour. Students sampled a few greens fresh from the garden and enjoyed the company of the farm dog, Loki.

Students eat a meal at a long tableThe following week, students were treated to a farm-to-table, family-style lunch at The Arnold House. The meal included fresh salad, roasted chicken, carrots, fingerling potatoes and a lemon honey tart. All ingredients were locally produced and freshly prepared. Students discussed the tastes, smells and textures of the food while enjoying the meal. After each course, the chef shared with the students where the food came from and how it was prepared. 

A person talks to students sitting at tablesGoldstein returned to the Liberty classrooms mid-February to recap the field trips as well as discuss the difference between real versus processed foods, as well as health benefits. Yurasits prepared three more snacks for the class, and they were asked to once again try “A Single Bite” while describing the food. The bites included parsnip soup, venison summer sausage on a sweet potato chip, and a garlic scape on a roasted carrot.

“It was a great experience,” student Tyler Juron said, “because we learned about local foods and got to eat an amazing lunch.”

Goals are more powerful than wishes

How Liberty schools use goal-setting for improvement

A wish is something we hope happens. A goal is something we make happen. The main difference between wishes and goals are: clear purpose, effort and priority.

Goal-setting is an integral part of the Leader in Me program, which Liberty has instituted in all of its buildings.

This year, elementary and middle school students have begun setting Wildly Important Goals, or WIGs. SMART goals have been a feature at the high school level for several years. In each case, these goals are those determined to be more important than all others. They are specific, measurable and realistic and can be personal or academic.

But setting the goal is only the first step.

Once a goal is identified, action steps are planned to help reach that goal.

For example, an elementary student’s WIG may be to read a chapter book each month. The student decides that goal can be achieved by reading 20 minutes each night. That task, known as a lead measure, can be used to track progress each day. This is habit building.

At the elementary school, goals can be academic, behavioral or social, and generally focus on the individual student. Although the goal may be personalized, the progress is shared with a partner, group, class or building. At LES, there are school-wide, classroom and individual student goals.

A wall display to encourage goal setting

Sharing your progress toward a goal is important, according to LES Principal Robert England. “Letting your accountability partners know how you are doing is key. When students know that other people are invested in their daily progress, students are more likely to change their behaviors to achieve their goals. Eventually, these healthy behaviors turn into self-sustaining habits for long term wellness.”

At the middle school, the WIG starts at the building level: ”By May 2023, 80% of grade 5-8 students’ current Student Growth Percentile will be at or above proficiency level (25+) as evidenced by the Spring 2023 STAR Assessment in Reading.”

Each student’s goal is set using the STAR assessment given at the beginning of the year. The assessment breaks down each student’s progress and offers areas on which a student can improve. The students set their WIGs and list at least two things (lead measures) that can be used to help them reach that goal, such as taking notes during daily reading or effectively logging their reading time. Students will be reviewing their new STAR Assessment data from this winter to update their WIGs and Lead Measures.

APapers used to help track wigs in a display case.t LMS, time is set aside during classes to focus on the individual WIGs, and the teachers track the time spent. The time spent is compiled by grade on a google form. The tracking also makes it more fun for students, there is a schoolwide scoreboard displayed in the lobby and grade levels are celebrated at the monthly LIM DEAL (Leader in Me Drop Everything and Lead) Assemblies, said LMS Principal Heather Cheh.

At the high school level, goal-setting is done slightly differently, using  Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound goals, which encompass the same dynamics of WIGs.

The high school has been using SMART goals since the Professional Learning Community model was introduced a few years ago. Each Content Teacher Team, those who teach the same course, has a SMART goal. Tracking progress is specific to each goal, but is accomplished through common assessments and data analysis.

Each level of goal-setting builds on the others.

When students do better, classrooms do better, then grade-levels do better, and the building does better, and eventually the district, as a whole, will see improvement.

These improvements could be academic, behavioral or social. Improvement in all three helps make for a better community schoolwide.

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