Positive health is an important building block to positive education. In 2016, KHDA’s School of Hearts Survey found that 80% of elementary students and 72% of middle school students from participating Dubai schools said that they eat breakfast in the morning. The survey also found that 61% of the elementary school students and 53% of middle school students eat fruits and vegetables during school snacks and meals twice a week or more. This is a good sign that Dubai’s students are on track towards positive health!
Of concern is the 22% of Dubai school students who identified themselves as being overweight. It was found that this group of students were least likely to report that they regularly follow healthy habits.
Schools of Dubai promote healthy lifestyle habits in various ways. In this Chatter, we outline the holistic, cross curricular approach at the American School of Dubai (ASD); targeted support given to students at-risk of weight-related issues at Sabari Indian School and Little Flowers English School; and the school lunch program at Dubai British School – Jumeriah Park.
The Sustainable Garden at ASD. ASD raises school-wide, cross curricular nutrition awareness through its Sustainable Garden. In the elementary years, students compost and build soil, and grow vegetables to sell at the school farmer’s market which teaches them basic economics. Students learn about the plant lifecycle in Science and grow their indoor vertical garden. Students plant parsley to make tabbouleh and to learn the Arabic names of vegetables that are being grown in the garden.
ASD’s high school leads the Planting to Plate project as part of their service learning experience. High school students sow, grow, and harvest produce for the salad bar offered at the school cafeteria. The high school students also develop educational materials about the program to increase knowledge throughout the school about sustainable practices, such as eating local and growing food organically.
The Lifestyle Club at Sabari and Little Flowers. Sabari and Little Flowers provide individualized attention to directly target weight issues among its students through its Lifestyle Club. This not only builds awareness on healthy eating and exercise, but provides a catalyst for students, together with their parents, to immediately adopt healthy lifestyle habits at school and at home.
Special health education sessions are conducted to motivate at-risk students to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Parents of the at-risk students are actively engaged through parent-school doctor meetings with the student present.
Each student, together with their parents, is given a detailed personal health plan to follow. Specific exercises and physical activities are recommended in coordination with the school’s physical education teacher.
The Lifestyle Club provides advice to students, along with their parents on healthy lunch options. Recipes for healthy options are shared with parents, which has led to a friendly competition among parents’ for developing healthy lunch recipes.
School Lunch Program at Dubai British School (DBS) – Jumeirah Park. DBS encourages its primary school students to choose healthy foods and to learn good dietary habits through its school lunch program. School meals are organic, nutritionally balanced with no additives, and portion controlled. Students are prompted by staff on duty at each table to try salads, vegetables and home-made soup. Students are also encouraged to drink fresh water while teaching them the importance of staying hydrated. As part of the lunchtime experience, there is always an announcement related to school values and moral education such as keeping safe and healthy.
DBS reinforces the healthy eating message through classroom learning experiences. Through activities at school that encourage healthy eating and lifestyle, students at DBS share some of their own tips to help kick start the new year with healthy habits:
“An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” – Iman Ahmed, Year 3
“Eat a chocolate treat once a month.” – Alexandra David, Year 3
What are some other tips for parents and schools to promote healthy eating and lifestyle among Dubai’s students?