Nutrition and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

In modern schools... Success happens through Meaningful Student Involvement. Learn more at SoundOut.org.Nutrition is a bedrock of academic achievement, behavior and school climate. Whether apparent in school cafeteria selections, vending machines and other privately sold foods, or candy shared throughout the school day. Meaningful Student Involvement can be a key to transforming school nutrition.

What It Is

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School nutrition is meant to provide proper nutrition for students to support the growth, development and learning of students in schools. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, schools have a huge impact of student health. Because of their role in society and exposure in schools, students can learn healthy eating and receive healthy foods from schools like nowhere else. Nutritious, appealing foods and drinks should be provided in school cafeterias, vending machines, snack bars, school stores, and other places in schools that offer food and beverages to students. Nutrition education should also be part of a comprehensive school health education curriculum, and nutrition staff should be part of every school, district and state coordinated school health approach.

Opportunities for Meaningful Student Involvement

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As students become more accustomed to personalized learning, teaching and leadership throughout schools, they want more relevant food choices to support their experiences in schools. School nutrition has to be as engaging as classroom education. While society is embracing greater health in nutrition, schools are responsible for doing the same. Meaningful Student Involvement can facilitate this. There are examples of this work happening around the world.

  • BOSTON: The Boston Student Advisory Council met regularly and advised a group over the course of a year with representatives from Boston Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services to discuss issues related to school food and vending machines.  Students advised a group of doctors working with the Nutrition Group on how to create healthy snacks that students will actually eat.
  • PENNSYLVANIA: Student involvement in wellness goals was promoted by having them work with local education agencies to develop Local Wellness Policies. Participating in the research, evaluation and re-design of school nutrition policies, student engagement was shown to increase, as did student acceptance in an array of health-related areas. Research found this approach may have promise in the area of obesity prevention. (Jomaa, L. H., E. McDonnell, et al. (2010) “Student Involvement in Wellness Policies: A Study of Pennsylvania Local Education Agencies,” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 42(6): 372-379)

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Rural Schools and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

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Rural schools face a growing number of challenges and opportunities unique to their circumstances. In many rural communities, schools are the center of activity and identity. Meaningful Student Involvement can provide unique opportunities to facilitate powerful transformation throughout those systems, and to sustain those communities.

What They Are

Rural schools are anywhere outside of cities and suburban areas. They often exist either as large consolidated schools or tiny one-room schoolhouses. Most are historical, but some are new. Issues in rural schools can include fewer resources for students and teachers; lack of access to professional development and student training opportunities; community isolation; students having the same teachers for multiple subjects and grade levels; and fewer extracurricular activities.

In modern schools... Belonging happens through Meaningful Student Involvement. Learn more at SoundOut.org.Where Meaningful Student Involvement Fits

By facilitating active, engaged and educational roles for students through Meaningful Student Involvement, the approach can be essential for retaining learners, graduating students and decreasing the brain drain in rural schools. Providing educators and administrators powerful, research-driven frameworks, Meaningful Student Involvement breaks traditional hierarchal cultures in schools by appropriately positioning students in relationship to adults. In turn, students can become enthusiastic, engaged learners, teachers and leaders in rural schools.

Through this authentic systems approach, schools can embrace local community culture outside of schools by creating new roles for students that empower them with substantial skills and knowledge. This happens by embracing the following characteristics:

  • Just as many rural communities form holistic bonds that support entire families, communities and cultures, schools should take schoolwide approaches to Meaningful Student Involvement.
  • Integrated as complete members of their homes and family businesses, rural students need to experience high levels of student authority that allow them to experience full Student/Adult Partnerships.
  • Interrelated strategies to infusing Meaningful Student Involvement echo the relationships rural students experience throughout their communities.
  • Identifying and maintaining sustainable structures of support show students their contributions are relevant beyond them.
  • Personal commitment needs to be instilled, fostered and supported throughout the education system in order to ensure Meaningful Student Involvement affects everyone involved and not just students.
  • When students experience strong learning connections between their involvement and their classrooms, it ensures a long term sense of belonging and variety.

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Restorative Justice and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement
Olympia 2014
Students participate in a conversation about restorative justice led by SoundOut in Olympia, Washington.

Restorative justice is a student-led approach to resolving conflict in schools. It holds Meaningful Student Involvement at the center, with students as planners, facilitators and evaluators throughout the entirety of the process.

What It Is

Where many previous conflict resolution programs in schools were adult-led and student-driven, restorative justice programs elevate student voice by increasing student agency through positioning learners as strategic owners of the entire process. Students can call for restorative justice, plan its implementation, facilitate the process and submit their feedback afterwards. This is especially important to students of color, of whom US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, ”…minority students across America face much harsher discipline than non-minorities — even within the same school…some of the worst discrepancies are in my home town of Chicago.” Many people believe historic ways of behavior management in schools are directly responsible for several realities for students of color and low-income students, including the achievement gap and zero tolerance policies, both of which encourage students to drop out or face being pushed out of school.

What It Does

Restorative justice moves students to engage with each other in powerful, responsive ways. The philosophy and practices of restorative justice bring students who misbehave into structured, safe and supportive conversations with students who are affected by their misbehavior. This teaches accountability and interdependence while repairing the harm that was caused. It also prevents future behavior of a similar fashion, as students become more responsible for their actions and responsive to the climate of the learning environment. Significant research supports all of this.

Community organizations, individual schools and districts across the United States are adopting this practice more frequently, including Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) and Oakland Public Schools.

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Student Empowerment and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement

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Student empowerment is any attitudinal, structural, and cultural activity, process or outcome where students of any age gain the ability, authority and agency to make decisions and implement changes in their own schools, learning and education, and in the education of other people, including fellow students of any age and adults throughout education. There are countless ways this can happen as well as many potential outcomes, all of which feature learning, teaching and leadership. Student empowerment happens in schools; child empowerment and youth empowerment happen outside of schools. 

How It Happens

Throughout our society, adults act as the apex (top) power holders, using adultism to enforce their power. This is true within schools, too, where adults are ultimately responsible for all activities, outcomes and processes. Student empowerment happens when adults share any amount of that power with students.

There are times when students can attempt to grasp the power of adults without adults sharing it willingly, too. However, these are fleeting because of adults ultimate grasp on power.

Student empowerment generally happens through student authorization and student action. Student authorization, which is part of the Cycle of Engagement, happens when students acquire the knowledge and positions they need in order to affect schools.

What Stops Empowerment

As reflected elsewhere on this site, there are many barriers to school transformation reflecting student empowerment. They include the culture of schools; structures within education; adults throughout the system; and students themselves. There are also many ways to overcome these barriers.

However, one of the barriers to student empowerment is the concept itself: By dispensing their power without discretion or well-informed intentions, well-meaning educators can actually do a moderate-to-severe disservice to students themselves. Placing students on a pedestal, the behind these actions is often that any power is better than no power, and that students are devoid of power within schools right now. However, that’s simply not the case, and learning about student empowerment before taking action can do a lot to improve students’ experiences with this approach.

What many educators are actually striving for is not student empowerment at all, but Meaningful Student Involvement.

Where Meaningful Student Involvement Fits

When student empowerment activities are most effective, they reflect Meaningful Student Involvement. Students’ ideas, knowledge, opinions and experiences in schools and regarding education are actively sought and substantiated by educators, administrators, and other adults within the educational system. Adults’ acknowledgment of students’ ability to improve schools is validated and authorized through deliberate teaching  focused on learning about learning, learning about the education system, learning about student voice and Meaningful Student Involvement, and learning about school improvement.

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Student Behavior and Meaningful Student Involvement

SoundOut for Meaningful Student Involvement
SoundOut workshop in Cheney, Washington
Students participate in a SoundOut workshop about student voice and classroom behavior in Cheney, Washington.

Student behavior and classroom management are consistently important issues to educators and students in the area of Meaningful Student Involvement, although for different reasons.

What It Is

Classroom teachers often report they want to use meaningful involvement as an incentive to make students behave better; students often report that if they were meaningfully involved, classroom behavior would not be an issue.

When considering the variety of issues that are tied together within student behavior, it may seem important to address it through school improvement approaches. However, what Meaningful Student Involvement promotes is consideration and understanding of the contexts of challenges in schools. This includes the overall issue of student engagement and the different ways different students are engaged throughout learning, teaching and leadership.

How It Happens

There are many issues to consider when thinking about student behavior:

  • What makes student behavior right or wrong? Who determines what is right or wrong?
  • What happens when students behave well? What happens when they aren’t doing well?
  • Should students sacrifice their happiness for good behavior?
  • When we expect students to behave well, do we limit expectations for them in other ways?
  • What informal rules do we expect students to follow?

When educators use rules arbitrarily and without learning objectives, students often see behavior as an artificial measure for their behavior. Similarly, when behavior is rewarded and made an example of, students can see it as a measuring stick for their intelligence and ability.

Meaningful Student Involvement can position students as co-learners with educators, allowing everyone in the classroom to learn and grow together. Student/Adult Partnerships in all grade levels can explore:

  • What counts as “good”?
  • Should we behave “good”?
  • Does “good” behavior earn us the outcome we want?
  • What outcomes can “bad” behavior get us?
  • What happens when two students can’t be judged by the same standards?
  • Can we learn our way to good behavior, or is it something we either do or don’t do?

With this type of inquiry-based learning through student behavior, classrooms and schools prove to be vibrant, vital and ever relevant for learners of all types, including the historically disengaged. Meaningful Student Involvement can allow the traditionally static relationships between learners and teachers to become more elastic, and that sense of ability to change everyone’s learning experiences, including students who traditionally get “in trouble”.

Where Meaningful Student Involvement Fits

Infusing Meaningful Student Involvement into classroom management has become a challenge in many classrooms. Mark Barnes, an author and the creator of the Results Only Learning Environment (ROLE) method, shares three simple steps for teachers:

  1. Create a workshop environment in your classroom that encourages the pursuit of learning and allows little time for disruption.
  2. Set the tone from the beginning of the school year by eliminating all discussion of rules and consequences by explaining that your learning space is built on mutual respect and the quest for knowledge.
  3. Keep activities engaging and behavior will never be an issue!

 

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