I wish I had a nickel….

I have been asked so many times over the past 20 years how I get all the kids I teach to eat their veggies and other healthy foods. Two things come to mind:

1) Get them involved with the process–helping to choose recipes, going to Farmer’s Market or grocery store, have the kiddos wash and help prepare the meal, even if that is simply adding the veggies to the pot of soup.

2) Most important by far. Lead by example. If you’re eating a bag of chips and tell you child to eat their broccoli, it might not work.


Answers to the interview questions

I would love to make this trip across the country interviewing kids again to see if the answers to the below questions are similar.

How we began

Kids are much more intuitive and wise than most adults give them credit for. We knew that we could learn a lot from the kids themselves and that we needed to chat with as many kids as possible if we were going to create a program to assist with the health crisis our kids are facing. It was Patty’s experience teaching her own children, and the kids at her cooking school, that if they are part of the process, they are much more likely to be part of the solution. In this case the process is education and the solution is improved health leading to a healthier, happier, more productive life.

In the fall of 2009, Patty founded a non-profit then called Shine The Light On America’s Kids, as the data she was about to collect was from kids in the United States. She spent most of 2010 traveling the United States interviewing kids from all walks of life about their health. The data was collected and subsequently analyzed by Sonoma State University, and the ‘America’s ‘ was dropped as the programs being developed were for all kids. Eventually, the name was changed to DirectionFive Health, because there are five programs and it’s a whole new direction—a fifth direction— as these programs were based on what the kids wanted to learn, not what adults think they want to learn.

The Data

The videotaped interview questions and answers:

What does health mean to you?

56.8% of the kids said health is how they felt physically, 14.8 percent of the kids said health was being both physically and mentally healthy, 20.5% weren’t sure what being healthy meant exactly, 3.4% thought health was being healthy mentally.

Do you think you are healthy? If yes, why? If not, why not?

77.8% of the kids said, yes, they were healthy, 7.8 % said no, they weren’t healthy, and 14.4% said they were ‘sort of’ healthy. The not-healthy kids blamed the consumption of junk food.

Is your family healthy? Do you think they have healthy habits?

80.2% of the kids said that their family was healthy, 11.6% said their families were not healthy and 8.1% didn’t know if their family was or was not healthy. 78.9% of the kids said that their family did have healthy habits, 15.8% said they did not and 5.3% weren’t sure.

One note about these statistics is that some of the kids told me after the interview that their families were not healthy and didn’t have healthy habits, but they didn’t want to say that earlier because their parents would be angry with them. By far this question was the most discussed question after the interview.

How do you know what food is healthy and what is not?

29.8% of the kids said they went by ingredients, 2.4% went by how food made them feel, 9.5 % said they looked at preparation to decide, 34.5% looked at the kind of food (vegetables were almost always healthy, as an example), 14.3% looked at other things, like if their Mom bought it for them, it must be healthy-I heard that one quite a bit) and 9.5% didn’t know.

Are you ever hungry because your family does not have enough to eat?

10.7% of the kids said yes, 79.8% said no and 9.5% of the kids said sometimes they were hungry.

Do you know how to read the nutritional value label on your food? If no, would you like to learn?

91.6% of kids had noticed the food labels on packaged foods, 8.4% had not. 65.4% of kids knew how to read them, 32.1% did not, and 2.5% knew a few things. 32.4% of kids learned about food labels at school, 29.7% learned by a family member, 24.3% were self-taught, and 13.5% learned from someone else. 73.1% of the kids wanted to learn more about food labels, 22.4% did not, and 4.5% said they wanted to know more later in life, or else, they wanted to know only one or two items. 81.8% of kids said that is they really understood food labels they would be healthier, 12.7 did not think they’d be healthier, and 5.5% weren’t sure.

What foods give you the best energy?

42.4% of kids said fruit, with an apple being by far the first choice, 8.2% said some sort of vegetable with carrots being the leader, 5.9% said protein helped them (eggs, steak), 16.5% had a combination answer, with fruit being part of that combination most times, 9.4% didn’t know, and 17.6% had widely varied answers (granola, chips, etc., not all junk however)

Do you think your diet affects your grades?

47.0% of kids said yes, their diet affects their grades, 45.8% said it did not, and 7.2 weren’t sure.

Is there something you really love to do, a passion? Do you think you could do that if you weren’t healthy?

38.4% of kids said that some sort of sport was their passion, 22.1% said other physical activities such as dancing, horseback riding, etc., was their passion, and 8.1% didn’t have anything they were passionate about.

Do you exercise? How often?

90.7% of kids said that they exercised, 5.8% said they did not, and 3.5% had varied responses. 45.3% of kids exercised everyday, 1.3% said six days per week, 12.0% said five days per week, 10.7% said four days per week, 8.0% said three days per week, 9.3% said two days per week, 8.0% said one day per week, and 5.3% were ‘other.’

Do you think P.E. should be mandatory in schools?

92.0% of kids said that Physical education (P.E.) should be mandatory in schools. 2.3% said no it should not be mandatory, and 5.7% said other. Sometimes I heard from kids that if they were on sports teams, they should not have to do P.E. as well.

Do you think the food you eat affects your how you feel; your mood?

54.5% of kids thought that the food they eat affects their mood, 35.2% said food did not affect their mood, and 10.2% said ‘other.’ Sometimes, ‘other’ meant only one certain food, as an example.

Do you know how to cook? What can you cook?

74.2% of kids said they knew how to cook, 18.0% said they did not, and 7.9% were in the ‘other’ category, meaning perhaps they could cook one thing. Of these, 26.8% knew how to cook some sort of breakfast food, 15.5% said lunch, 14.1% said dinner, 18.3 said ‘other,’ meaning perhaps they could put milk on cereal, and 25.4% of kids said they knew how to cook ‘everything,’ meaning something for each meal. 85.4% of kids wanted to learn how to cook more things, 8.3% did not, and 6.3% said ‘other,’ which usually meant they wanted to learn how to prepare one certain thing, generally something, ‘fancy.’

Do you eat at a table? With whom?

88.8% said they ate dinner at a table, 6.7% did not, and 4.5% said once in a while or ‘other.’ 90.5% ate dinner with parent(s) or family member, 4.8 % ate without parents, 3.6% ate alone, and 1.2% was ‘other.’

Do you understand how your body works? If not, would you like to learn? Do you think you would you be healthier if you understood?

65.1% did know how their body works, 20.9 % did not know, 14.0 were in the ‘other’ category, generally meaning, they knew a few things. 93.5% learned about their bodies at school, 6.5% learned from family. 82.5% of kids said they thought they’d be healthier if they understood more about their body function, 17.5% said they wouldn’t be healthier if they knew more.

Did you have breakfast today?

91.5% did have breakfast, 8.5% did not.

What vegetables did you eat yesterday?

76.3% of kids had some sort of vegetable, 23.8% did not have any vegetables. As an aside, sometimes that vegetable was simply a piece of lettuce on a sandwich. The vast majority of kids did not come close to consuming enough vegetables.

Do you think that where you live affects your health? Why?

62.1 of kids said yes, 33.3% said no and 4.6% weren’t sure. The answers were varied; the kids who lived in the country said country was healthier because they had better water and air and less trash, as well as less access to junk food. City kids said they had more choices for healthy food, but that air, water and again, trash, were problems. Some kids in both city or country, were concerned about secondhand smoke.

Are you concerned about the affordability of your food?

36.1% of kids were concerned about the cost of food, 51.8% were not concerned and 12.0% of kids said sometimes they were worried.

Do you think the Earth’s health affects your health?

85.1% of kids thought there was a correlation between the Earth’s health and their personal health, 14.9% of kids didn’t think there was a correlation.

Are you concerned about the safety of your food and water?

68.8% of kids were concerned about the safety of their food and water, 23.8% were not concerned, and 7.5% of kids were in the ‘other’ category, generally meaning, sometimes.

How many hours of sleep to you get a night?

91.6% of kids said they got enough sleep, meaning at least 8 hours a night and they felt rested, 8.4% said they didn’t get enough sleep and were not rested. Of those, stress was the most common answer.

Is religion or spiritual practice a part of you and your family’s life?

62.2% of kids said that yes, some sort of religious practice was part of their lives, 37.8% said not it was not.

Do you know where does your food come from? How it is processed?

36.4% of kids knew where their food came from and how it was processed, 59.7% did not know, and 3.9% of kids said ‘other’ often times they knew where an item or two came from. 69.2% of kids wanted to know where their food came from, 25.0% did now want to know, and 5.8% were in the ‘other’ category, generally meaning they weren’t sure.

Do you have a garden or have you or your family grown or raised any of your own food?

59.0% had grown some of their own food, 39.7% had not, and 1.3% said ‘other.’

What is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?

This question was just to end on a fun note. One boy said ants after watching the Jungle Book; one girl, who was Hispanic, said Chicken Alfredo because she had never seen white food; one Native American boy said scorpions with his Grandpa, who had cut the stingers off for him. The answers were really varied.

Interesting, isn’t it?

This was my home for almost a year. Another big doggie joined me, Patch, who now lives in my memory. Wilma, pictured on her pink heart blanket, still sleeps on the same blanket–she’s just has white sprinkles now.:)

The Third Direction is Body/Earth Connection

The below is from the D5 teaching manual. We hope it’s useful for you and your kids! It’s a long Direction, but here are a few common terms to get you started.

DirectionThree: The Body/Earth Connection

 The whole problem of health, in soil, plant, animal and man is one great subject.”

— Sir Albert Howard, 1939


The information available today on the state of our Earth’s health and its relation to our health is overwhelming, sad and often times discouraging. Shortsighted thinking leaves our planet and our very future in peril.

Consider the words from The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations:

“In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self-interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law, which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground – the unborn of the future Nation.”

We need to live today as if it’s seven generations from now and make decisions not only for ourselves but also for those who will walk on this Earth in 200 years. They will thank us for keeping them in our minds and hearts.

In order to make good choices we need to understand how our decisions affect the Earth’s health and our health. Keep in mind that only 1/32 of the earth’s surface is suitable for food production. We all share the world’s resources and as of 2008 the global population is 6.83 billion people with one billion overweight or obese and nearly one billion without adequate nutrition.

Here are some common terms:

An Aquifer is an underground source of water. This water may be contained in a layer of rock, sand or gravel.

The Body Burden is the total amount of a chemical in the body. Some chemicals build up in the body because they are stored in body organs like fat or bone or are eliminated very slowly.

An ecosystem is a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment.

Energy is usable heat or power with the major sources being petroleum or coal. Renewable energy sources include solar and wind power.

Exposure refers to contact with a chemical by swallowing, breathing or direct contact such as through the skin or eyes. Exposure may be either short term (acute) or long term (chronic).

The Farm Bill is an omnibus bill, which is a Latin word that means ‘for everything.’ It is the primary agricultural and food policy tool of the United State government. The Farm Bill impacts the environment, our food and water supply and safety, organics, food assistance programs and the health of rural communities. It can be controversial because of food subsidies, meaning the government pays farmers to grow or not to grow certain crops and subsidizes farmer’s incomes. The Farm Bill is hundreds of pages long and can be found at:


Food miles refer to the distance food travels to the point of production to the time it reaches the consumer. Food miles are one factor used in assessing the environmental impact of food. On average food travels between 1,500 and 2,500 miles before it arrives in your kitchen.

A Foodshed is a term used to describe the flow of food from producer to consumer. This general definition considers a geographic area that supplies a population area with food.

Global Warming is the gradual increase in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, believed to be due to the greenhouse effect, caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) are organisms whose genetic characteristics have been altered by the insertion of a modified gene or a gene from another organism using the techniques of genetic engineering. This relatively new science allows DNA from one species to be injected into another species in a laboratory, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.

Inputs are defined as what is put in, taken in, or operated on by any process or system.

A kilocalorie, commonly referred to as kcal, is a unit of energy equivalent to 1000 calories.

A life cycle assessment, also known as Cradle to Grave Assessment, is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product’s life from-cradle-to-grave. As an example, you would ‘follow’ an apple from the farm where it is grown to the store where it is sold to your table and analyze all the impacts to the Earth and therefore your health.

A pathogen is a bacterium, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.

Pesticides are chemicals used to eliminate or control a variety of agricultural pests that can damage crops and livestock and reduce farm productivity. The most commonly applied pesticides are insecticides (to kill insects), herbicides (to kill weeds), rodenticides (to kill rodents), and fungicides (to control fungi, mold, and mildew). Of these pesticide classes, herbicides (weed killers) are the most widely used. Today, over 1 billion tons of pesticides are used in the US every year.


A watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes the same direction and into the same place.




Bone Health for Kids

Bone Health for Kids:

Here are some basic facts about bone health for kids. Use this checklist when teaching groups of kids or your own children. Involve them by asking the questions and waiting for the answers. It’s really fun!

 How many bones in an adult human body?

  • There are more in a kid’s body, as some bones haven’t fused together. More than half of our bones are in the hands and feet!

 Does a human or a giraffe have more bones in their neck?

  • They’re the same!

Peak ages for bone density and growth is 9-12 years of age. By age 17, 90% of bone mass is established.

Think of bones like a bank account: You put in calcium until you reach the age of 18, then the bank is closed and you can only withdraw.

Sources of calcium:

Dark, leafy greens such as collard greens and kale, spinach, chard, and bok choy.


Calcium-fortified orange juice and tofu.


Dairy products

Milk also contains vitamin D, which helps absorb calcium

Some cereals

How much calcium do you need a day as kids?

  • 1300 mg, 1100 mg for adults

What else is good for bone health?

  • Exercise! Weight-bearing exercise is particularly good for bones. This can be from light weight lifting or by using their own weight for weight bearing exercise; such as you do with pushups.

Osteoporosis means porous bones. Ask the kids if they know what this word means. Explain that porous bones are weak bones.

What is not good for bone health?

Phosphoric Acid, which is found in sodas. It interferes with calcium absorption.

Caffeine also interferes with calcium absorption.

Kids like this next one and I am always surprised at how many kids know the meaning of the word. Ask them, do you know what ‘Euphemism’ means? Definition: The act or an example of substituting a mild, indirect, or vague term for one considered harsh, blunt, or offensive. Here is a real life example of a euphemism; ‘Energy’ drinks. ‘Energy drinks’ only give you short-term energy while doing a lot of damage to your good health.

Supplements: Vitamin D- 400 IU/day. Please ask your health professional for supplement advice.

Kids want strong bones and once they know the facts; they are more likely to lessen their soda and caffeine intake and increase bone-health foods.





The Socratic Method

At DirectionFive, we teach kids using the interactive Socratic method. Here is a summary for you. We hope it’s useful.

In his lecture, Political Science professor Rob Reich describes the Socratic method, pointing out the following:


  • Socratic inquiry is not “teaching” per se. It does not include PowerPoint driven lectures, detailed lesson plans or rote memorization. The teacher is neither “the sage on the stage” nor “the guide on the side.” The students are not passive recipients of knowledge.


  • The Socratic Method involves a shared dialogue between teacher and students. The teacher leads by posing thought-provoking questions. Students actively engage by asking questions of their own. The discussion goes back and forth.


  • The Socratic Method says Reich, “is better used to demonstrate complexity, difficulty, and uncertainty than to elicit facts about the world.” The aim of the questioning is to probe the underlying beliefs upon which each participant’s statements, arguments and assumptions are built.


  • The classroom environment is characterized by “productive discomfort,” not intimidation. The Socratic professor does not have all the answers and is not merely “testing” the students. The questioning proceeds open-ended with no pre-determined goal.


  • The focus is not on the participants’ statements but on the value system that underpins their beliefs, actions, and decisions. For this reason, any successful challenge to this system comes with high stakes—one might have to examine and change one’s life, but, Socrates is famous for saying, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”


  • “The Socratic professor,” Reich states, “is not the opponent in an argument, nor someone who always plays devil’s advocate, saying essentially: ‘If you affirm it, I deny it. If you deny it, I affirm it.’ This happens sometimes, but not as a matter of pedagogical principle.”


Both critical thinking and Socratic questioning share a common end. Critical thinking provides the conceptual tools for understanding how the mind functions in its pursuit of meaning and truth and Socratic questioning employs tools to frame questions in the pursuit of meaning and truth.