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Making Breakfast in the Classroom More Exciting for Students – and Easier for Teachers

Norwood Elementary
Baltimore, Maryland

The classroom morning routine – a flurry of activity that typically involves students arriving, unpacking their book bags, hanging up their jackets, completing their weekly “jobs,” and handing in homework – can be hectic and stressful. Add an alternative school breakfast program like Breakfast in the Classroom to the mix, as Norwood Elementary in Baltimore, Maryland, did, and classroom teachers definitely have their hands full.

So when Norwood received a $1,000 School Breakfast Grant from Action for Healthy Kids, made possible by generous funding by the Walmart Foundation, to expand its breakfast program for the 2017-2018 school year, the school wanted to find a fun way to engage students while also making teachers’ jobs a little easier.

Mary Jefferson, a kindergarten teacher at Norwood, had the idea to get kids excited about breakfast by allowing them to decorate their own placemats. To help ensure that each child received the recommended foods in order to have a balanced breakfast, the placemats indicated an area where each breakfast item could be placed. After students personalized theirs with drawings, stamps and stickers, the placemats were laminated for them to use throughout the school year as part of their Breakfast in the Classroom routine.

“We created the breakfast mats as a way for students to hold themselves accountable and make sure they are having a complete and balanced breakfast,” Jefferson said, explaining that many students have begun trying new types of fruit in order to meet their fruit “requirement.” “The placemats make it easy for them to know what options they have and what makes a meal complete.”

The mats have become a useful tool for classroom teachers as well, Jefferson said: Even when the teachers don’t have time to explain the day’s breakfast choices, they can feel confident that their students are getting what they need. Another practical benefit? The placemats help keep food off of tables and desks – and away from germs.

Halfway through the school year, Norwood has already begun reaping the benefits of the School Breakfast Grant: More students are arriving to class on time, and fewer are visiting the school nurse; teachers and administrators are becoming more supportive of the breakfast program; and students are showing more enthusiasm toward Breakfast in the Classroom.

Jefferson is hopeful that that enthusiasm – as well as the health consciousness the placemats have fostered in students – will carry over into other aspects of their lives.

“Our students are becoming independent and responsible for their healthy choices,” Jefferson said. “We hope that the daily use of the placemats helps them make other healthy choices throughout the day.”