Stephen Berg is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education. His focus is physical education, health education, action research and children’s physical activity. We sat down with him on World Health Day to discuss ways to introduce children to healthy lifestyles in a generation of tech-focused youth.
1. How can we promote healthy lifestyles with kids in the 21st century when they are constantly engaged with technology?
We have to teach kids that it’s all about balance. Yes, tech is a huge part of our lives but you can’t rely on tech for everything. Living a healthy lifestyle is about taking a break to go play and be a kid again. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an organized sport. I’ve seen kids who often struggle with the balance of being involved in too many organized sports.
When kids take the time to take a break and do something active their mindset changes. Going outside and playing in their neighbourhood builds childhood social interactions. It helps develop social and emotional wellbeing and it gives kids the opportunity to use their imagination.
2. What lessons are you instilling in Elementary teacher candidates to promote healthy lifestyles in the classroom?
A lot of people think health is just physical education and nutrition –well it’s about a lot more than just that. It includes relationship building and the promotion of positive relationships with peers and teachers in the schools. I try to instill the notion that healthy lifestyles goes beyond what’s taught in P.E. class. It’s learning how to teach students about healthy life choices, and recognizing those choices. We’ve learned that positive promotion is a lot more effective than the old scare tactics that used to be taught in schools.
3. What is one thing you wish to impart on teachers and students about promoting positive health?
You really don’t have to stick to the rigidity of a checklist to teach children about physical education or nutrition – you can teach a huge variety of activities to help children develop skills, creativity, and the promotion of healthy living – while still teaching them the skills and competencies that they need in order to live a healthy lifestyle.
I’m a big believer in the promotion and encouragement of students teaching other students about activities they’re interested in. My daughters, Brooke and Ashley, taught dance to the Elementary Teacher candidates at UBC Okanagan, and the students absolutely loved it. Get kids to showcase their skills and they’ll be more engaged and more excited about living healthy lives.