Role of Classroom Teachers in Nutrition and Physical Education
Nutrition education and physical education in schools is increasingly being explored as a way to prevent childhood overweight and to promote healthy eating and physical activity habits behaviors. Classroom teachers are often responsible for providing this education. The current study examined the roles and perspectives of elementary school teachers regarding student nutrition, nutrition education, and physical education. Data is from a 2001-2002 study of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Nutrition Network. Analyses were based on 78 structured interviews with elementary school teachers. Results showed that teachers perceive their role in nutrition education as teachers, role models, advocates, and motivators. Teachers integrate nutrition education into existing subject areas, and believe that nutrition education results in greater knowledge and healthier food choices. However, teachers report that too little time is spent on nutrition education. Results of this study also indicate that classroom teachers are often responsible for physical education (PE). Teachers believe PE has a positive effect on the school community and on student fitness, but the effect is limited due to lack of structure and lack of time in PE class. Teachers report barriers to both nutrition education and physical education, including other classes taking up too much time, limited teacher training, and a lack of adequate equipment and facilities. Findings suggest that more resources including teacher training, time, curricula and textbooks, and equipment need to be allocated for nutrition education and physical education at the elementary school level.