Steamboat Springs While most people just think of a pretzel as a salty snack, Grady Turner thinks of them as a potential lesson plan.
If children bite them into the shapes of different letters and eat the healthy food at the same time, it's a win win.
For years, Turner, a kindergarten teacher at Soda Creek Elementary School, has incorporated healthy foods into his lesson plans.
Raisins and nuts are used in math lessons.
And after reading the kids "Green Eggs and Ham," a story about a creature who ends up liking something he thought looked weird and disgusting, Turner allows the kids to try some more exotic foods like starfruit or okra they may have had a preconceived dislike of because of the appearance.
The lesson is they may be surprised by how it tastes.
Every Friday in class, Turner hosts a “fun with food” lesson with his students.
“They love it,” he said. “They eat it up.”
With some help from a chef puppet, Turner shows the kids that eating healthier actually can be fun.
Turner said he was motivated to help teach students the value of healthy eating when he noticed childhood obesity was becoming more of an issue in the schools he taught in.
“I've been teaching for 16 years now, and I see the junk food they bring in at snack time and lunch,” he said. “I kept seeing the obesity problem year after year, and things were getting worse, not better.”
He said he's hopeful his lessons can have a positive impact, and students can take what they've learned about healthy foods home with them.
Around this time last year, Turner self-published an e-book titled “Eat. Play. Learn.” that advocates using healthy foods to reinforce academic standards.
The book outlines activities kids ages 4 to 9 can do at home that make healthy eating fun at the same time.
Turner is hopeful his lesson plans can have benefits beyond the elementary school.
This year, he started a new set of healthy food lessons at Natural Grocers.
The lessons so far have ranged from using food puzzles to spelling out “Thank You” with healthy foods.
On Dec. 16, he'll lead a class on making a ginger bread house entirely out of healthy foods.
His lessons run on the third Monday of every month at the downtown grocery store.
“I have yet to find other books or resources or classroom teachers who are doing what I'm doing,” Turner said. “I think it's very unique.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10