I will be the first to admit that I am not an example of healthy living. On average, I sleep 4 to 5 hours a night. My eating habits could be described as horrible. I do not eat vegetables. Actually, I think that candy might be the only green colored item that I eat. My love and addiction for Coca-Cola products replaces water and other healthy alternatives as my drink of choice. A busy life schedule keeps me from exercising and working out as much a I would like. It am sure that I will not be winning any awards for my healthy lifestyle any time soon. I am not a good advocate of health and I am not equipped to educate others. Thankfully, we have an organization in our community that is a center of health education.
The McMillen Center for Health Education has been positively impacting our community for 30 years. The 16,000 square foot facility that features themed teaching theaters, an auditorium, and hands on activities has welcomed 1.5 million students. The mission “to provide vital and effective preventive health education that promotes physical, emotional, and social well-being” has been consistent since the center opened in 1981. Upon creation, the McMillen Center offered four different health programs. Today, it has grown and expanded to a curriculum of 76 programs. General health, safety, nutrition, fitness, and drug/alcohol prevention are just a few of the programs offered. In addition to program growth, the McMillen Center has increased its capabilities by expanding ways to reach children. A state-of-the-art videoconferencing studio allows instructors from the center to teach classes to students all over North America. 24 states and 4 Canadian provinces have benefited from the programs provided by the McMillen Center.
I had the opportunity to participate as a classroom helper during a nutrition and fitness class with 2nd graders from a local school. The teaching theater used featured stadium seating which made for a great atmosphere for learning. The class begin with a quick assessment to see what level of knowledge the students had in regards to the content. Mrs Hathaway was the instructor and she quickly engaged the children. We talked about the five food groups. As a demonstration, I was asked to help put together a meal featuring something from all 5 groups. I opened a picnic basket full of plastic food and started to pull out items. I picked Chicken, rice, broccoli, bread, and milk. I realized after I completed the task that I had failed. I had forgotten to incorporate the one food group that I actually enjoy, Fruits. I mentioned earlier that my nutrition habits were not best-in-class. I think that this proves that to be true. Games and interactive props were used to get the children involved in the learning experience. We talked about different types of exercises and the benefits of increased heart rate on the body. The entire class participated in a dance exercise to demonstrate how a little physical activity like dancing can increase the heart rate. The effects of advertising on food choices were also discussed. I smiled when the presentation showed a Coca-Cola can as an example. The class concluded with the same health assessment that was administered at the beginning of the class. This gives the instructor some data to show what the students learned while in the class. It was obvious by the response, that the children learned during this session. There is no doubt that I did too.
After class, I was introduced to a new McMillen Center initiative called Family Table. This program emphasises the importance of sitting down together as a family during meal time. This time around the table gives families a chance to engage and connect with each other. This has always been true for our family. As children, Erica and I were raised in families that always sat down together for meals. We often talked about the happenings of our day, the good and the bad, while sharing a laugh. We have carried this tradition into our family today. We have always made it a priority to eat meals together. As the children get older, it becomes more difficult. Work, sports, school, and volunteer activities are all items that fill our calendar. At times, we are eating on the run as we rush to the next place. Learning about the Family Table initiative has caused me to stop and re-evaluate our situation. Meal time should equal family time and we are off track. We need to refocus our priorities. Investing time in the Family Table is important to the health and strength of our family. You can visit www.familytableonline.org to learn more about this initiative and you can improve your Family Table.
I was very impressed with passion demonstrated by those I met at the McMillen Center for Health Education. Each and every person I spoke with is dedicated to the services and programs they offer our community. The impact they have on the children, adults, and families of our community cannot be measured. It is obvious, however, that our community would not be the same without them. They are positively impacting lives every day by teaching us all lessons for a lifetime. It is an exciting time for the McMillen Center as they continue to reach children all over the country. The city of Fort Wayne should be proud to have this organization in our community. I know that I am. Please check out www.mcmillencenter.org to learn more about the center of health education.