Students get tips on healthy living
Lincolnwood Friday, 6/1/12 Kindergartner, Patrick Nauman tries some hula hoop tricks during Friday's "Wellness Day" at Todd Hall Elementary School in Lincolnwood. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 8, 2012 6:39PM
Mario Rizzotti is accustomed to testing the skills of wannabe-chefs more seasoned than the small crowd before him last Friday afternoon.
So the Iron Chef judge kept a sense of humor as he stood in front of a table plump with fresh food and held up a white plant.
“What is this?” he asked the wide-eyed, cross-legged kids.
Some Todd Hall kindergartners began shouting “onion!”
Rizzotti, Chicago’s very own Food Network chef, revealed it was garlic.
“Some think we Italians bathe in this but we use it for flavor,” he cracked.
The kids marveled for a moment and then “guess the vegetable game” continued with the chef introducing all sorts of new food into their vernacular: radishes, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, fennel.
The real lesson, however, was in healthy eating as Rizzotti challenged the kids to think about their dietary habits.
“How many of you have French fries every day?” he asked.
Half a dozen hands shot up.
“Why don’t we do once a month?” suggested Rizzotti, instantly evoking a synchronized groan from the kids. One girl called out: “But I like McDonald’s.”
Rizzotti told her that he goes to the fast-food chain, too, but only as a special treat. Fresh vegetables are much better meals, he said.
“The more colorful is the veggie, the more healthy it is for you,” he declared, before leading the kids to chant: “Three veggies a day keeps the doctor away!”
Todd Hall hosted Rizzotti and a dozen others health, fitness and food specialists on June 1 for the Lincolnwood school’s Wellness Day, an event filled with activities and presentations focusing on children’s physical, social, and mental well-being.
With classes suspended, the kids jumped rope, hula hooped, and ran through an outside obstacle course. They listened to their hearts and heard the grumbling of their tummies doing digestive work. They also made healthy snacks on their own, such as “ants on a log,” a cream-cheese spread celery stick topped with dried fruit.
“Our whole goal is to have this at the end of the year so they can take (what they learn) home over the summer,” said Jaime Schremser, physical education/health teacher, who planned the school’s second Wellness Day in conjunction with second-grade teacher Steve Salski.
“We know that they’re little and won’t remember everything,” Schremser said, so the school aimed to have students develop at least one healthy habit.
Most of the guest presenters that day are alumni of District 74. Samantha Gonzalez, now a Kendall College Chicago student who also works at Chicago restaurant Blue Agave, demonstrated for second-graders how to make guacamole. Students also shot hoops with Jewell Loyd, Niles West High School’s beloved basketball prodigy who heads to Notre Dame in the fall on a full athletic scholarship.
Thirty parents assisted with the day-long event to keep the young elementary students moving from one station to the next. They also helped with fund raising, for example, obtaining food donations from Costco and Whole Foods and books from Friends of the Library.
Patty Elliot, whose youngest son, Ian, is a kindergarten student at Todd Hall, coordinated and recruited the day’s parent volunteers.
She said though her four children are active in sports, nutrition is an area in which the family could improve.
“I have the healthy stuff (at home),” Elliot said, but, unless she makes something for them, the kids head straight for the junk that doesn’t need to be prepared.
She said now that her son knows he can make his own veggie and fruit snacks, he’ll likely opt for that instead.
Another activity Elliot, teachers and students themselves enjoyed was the creation of a “garden of greatness.”
After reading “I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem” by actress Jamie Lee Curtis, students made paper flowers for one another listing the others’ positive traits.
The purpose of the exercise, Schremser said, was to build children’s esteem.
Evie Gallivan, whose 7th birthday is June 18, said she complimented her second-grade friend, Maxi, on being nice, lovely, and beautiful.
Dimitri Sikaras, 7, told his buddy, Porter, that “he’s the bestest friend in the whole world. He’s very kind and he’s very responsible and helpful.”
Both couldn’t recall what their peers had said about them. For them, the flower art was more of an opportunity to make their friends smile.