Erin Randall: Connecting Students to the Power of HealthPosted by Corey Burdick on 1/21/2020 1:15:00 PM
Note: This is a guest post written by UVM student Luke Magnier. He is a student in Professor Joyce Hendley's Strategic Writing class, a class that develops community partnerships to help local not-for-profit organizations. The class worked with the Healthy Schools program in fall 2019.
Every student at South Burlington High School is required to take a wellness course, “Health and Human Development Issues.” Erin Randall, the SBHS Health Educator who teaches the course, wishes she had even more time to help students focus on their health. “Students only take one semester of health their entire high school career,” she says. “It’s a challenge to include all of the information, and to help them practice these very important skills.”
Randall, who has been with the District for 20 years now, has seen many changes in day-to-day life for high schoolers, from the impact of social media on mental health to rising rates of obesity. “As health research evolves, we try to stay on top of the new information and incorporate that into our curriculum,” she said.
For example, SBHS is not immune to the current popularity of vaping, especially the widespread marketing of the biggest e-cigarette brand, Juul. In her time at SBHS Randall has seen the rise and fall of the popularity of cigarette smoking, “but now with Juul so prevalent,” she said, “we are right back where we were when I started.” To address the issue, the course includes a Drug Unit and now places a very strong emphasis on the dangers of Juul, she noted.
Randall’s teaching and influence go far beyond that health class. She has led classes on Peer Leadership, Sports Nutrition, and Sustainability, and currently, she offers a year-long course that combines both a Health and English credit with the same curriculum offered in the mandatory health class, but through the perspective of young adult fiction books.
A few years ago, to help show students firsthand the power of growing real food, Randall and fellow teacher Andrew Samara started a sustainable garden outside of the high school, using it as hands-on learning for the Sustainability course. Today, the garden continues to flourish on its own, offering students an opportunity to grow food for the cafeteria and even sell it at local farmers’ markets.
Introducing the topic of nutrition to high school students can be a little difficult, she admits. “I think part of the struggle in getting students to make healthy choices when it comes to nutrition is to having them see the value in preparing foods,” she noted, “rather than just going for the easy option fast food or convenience items.” Her goal is to help students see the value and importance of a healthy, sustainable diet that includes mostly whole foods. She does this by connecting on specific topics students relate to, whether it’s eating better for sports performance, choosing sustainable foods to protect the environment, or just feeling better in general.
Randall, a former high school athlete, still practices what she preaches, competing in marathons and triathlons all over the northeast. She’s also an accomplished cook with a passion for healthy foods.
The best part of her work? Being around students. Although they face a number of difficulties in their daily lives, they always give her hope. “They are definitely the reason I come back each year,” she declared, “They are so full of energy and life and they are so kind and caring."