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Addressing the Whole Child


  • Friday, May 8, 2020
  • 3 Minute Read   

Supporting optimal child growth + development is not a singular effort.

Every year, 46 million children experience toxic stress through abuse, crime, violence, food insecurity or psychological trauma. By taking a whole child approach, caring and nurturing school environments buffer the effects of toxic stress, allowing children to grow, develop and learn in spite of adversity.

What Is a Whole Child Approach?

According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), an education organization, a whole child approach to education takes into account inclusive curricula, instructional strategies, school culture, family engagement and social-emotional wellness. Supporting optimal child growth and development is not a singular effort but requires a comprehensive and ongoing approach to create opportunities for each child to succeed.

Inclusive educational curricula engage, empower and prepare children for all areas of life, including career and collegiate success. Research-based strategies such as project-based learning and guided goal setting give children opportunities to practice and develop autonomy over their learning, thus creating individuals who think critically and are able to solve problems as they arise.

Food Literacy Engages and Supports Children

Nutrition education is part of a larger systems approach to health, delivered through schools, communities and policies. It exists in a variety of learning settings with diverse audiences, from classrooms to gardens to community centers. Nutrition education has the power to positively change individuals and communities.

Research shows that fostering healthy eating patterns of nutritious and wholesome foods sets the foundation for healthy eating habits that people sustain over a lifetime. That foundation starts before birth and continues into adulthood. Therefore, nutrition education provides a key opportunity to introduce and model healthy behaviors, affecting growth and development in the short and long term. 

Nutrition education lends itself to food exploration and exposure, creating a shared understanding of culture and common language around health and wellness. Food literacy creates excitement around learning and supports children’s academic success, which in turn supports their social, emotional and mental well-being.

Whole Child Success

Schools that support robust engagement and create positive school climates support student success. Students engaged in a whole child approach are more likely to:

  • Learn in a physically and emotionally safe environment.
  • Engage in learning and feel connected to their school and broader community.
  • Be academically challenged and prepared for success in college, employment and participation in a global community.

Educators Create Change

Dairy Council of California science-based programs and resources, which are aligned with current educational methodologies, inform and empower individuals, families and communities to practice positive, healthy eating behaviors through small steps that affect their health and well-being. Family education resources, as well as nutrition education programs for every grade level, support inclusive educational curricula and empower educators to create change in classrooms, schools and communities. Visit this link today to create positive change in your community.

Bandura A. Toward a psychology of human agency. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2006;1(2):164-180.
Bandura A. Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Edu Behav. 2004;31(2):143-164.
Darling-Hammond L, Cook-Harvey CM. Educating the Whole Child: Improving School Climate to Support Student Success. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute; 2018. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Educating_Whole_Child_REPORT.pdf. Accessed March 10, 2020.
Whole child. ASCD website. http://www.ascd.org/whole-child.aspx. Accessed March 10, 2020.
A Whole Child Approach to Education and the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/policy/CCSS-and-Whole-Child-one-pager.pdf. Accessed March 10, 2020.

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