To persuade kids, let them be the teachers sometimes

Monday, April 24, 2017

Anyone involved in education can tell you it’s usually the teacher who learns the most.

That’s even true when the teacher is the student, according to a new University of Nebraska-Lincoln study.

The topic of the study was getting children to eat vegetables, one of the challenges facing every parent.

Christopher Gustafson, an assistant professor of ag economics, led a study involving students in four Kearney elementary schools, where students at one school were asked to design posters about eating vegetables.

Students who both designed the posters and saw them displayed in the school lunchroom ate more than three-quarters of a serving more than those who didn’t, an increase of more than 100 percent, even after two months.

‘Directly involving students in the design of the materials led to higher consumption of vegetables, more so than if the kids were only exposed to promotional materials,’ Gustafson said.

He said the study helps reinforce the idea that people who help make decisions are more committed to the idea, and students are often more likely to listen to their peers.

Even kids who didn’t create the posters showed an increase in their consumption of vegetables at the two-month follow-up.

Encouraging kids to use their creative energies to promote any positive behavior seems like an economic and effective alternative to tightly-enforced dietary guidelines that see too much healthy food wasted while hungry kids long for the junk food they’re used to.

Gustafson said schools might want to adopt the idea.

‘Doing this activity with students takes a little bit of time and some coordination, but if kids are more excited about posters they've drawn, it's a pretty low-cost way to promote healthier eating,’ he said.

The study, co-authored by Bryce Abbey and Kete Heelan of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Preventative Medicine Reports.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: