When Stephen Ritz began teaching in the South Bronx, he quickly realized that many of his students didn’t have access to fresh fruits or vegetables. Recognizing the impact nutrition can have on academic performance and mental health, he developed a fully-functioning classroom garden. He and his students have since grown over 40,000 pounds of vegetables.
At a camp for displaced persons in Durumi, Nigeria, Obitunwase Temitope runs a hygiene and etiquette class for children to provide them with skills to cope and compete in the outside world. In his interview with NPR, he describes his inspiration: the hope that in spite of “such deprived backgrounds”, these children will have all the skills required to succeed once they are able to leave the camp.
Visitacion Valley Middle School, in one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods, used to see several fights each day. Then, in 2007, the school instituted a meditation program through Quiet Time. Suspension rates have fallen by 79% since the program began, and 2014’s California Health Kids Survey found that Visitacion Valley students were the happiest in all of San Francisco.
Each of these situations illustrates a particular need for social emotional learning, which recent studies show is a critical – but often overlooked – aspect of education. Urban Tech has developed a Personal Growth theme to guide students toward a healthy lifestyle and mindset.
YLA’s Healthy Habits module helps students understand how daily eating and exercise habits directly impact their health, as well as how to set realistic goals to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Lessons also emphasize the impact popular culture and media can have on attitudes toward nutrition, exercise, and body image. These lessons are appropriate for all students, but are specifically directed at urban communities classified as food deserts, where healthy options are severely limited.
Personal Appearance delves into self-awareness of attire selection, body language, and personal hygiene habits, and continues the thread of media influence introduced in Healthy Habits. Here, students are encouraged to understand social expectations while developing a strong sense of self in order to evade potentially detrimental outside impacts.
This module series wraps up with Self Discovery. Here, students focus on self-improvement, goal-setting, resilience, and the development of a growth mindset. Rather than being expected to fully realize these benchmarks at the completion of the module, students are guided toward a set of skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.