Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Breaking Bad Eating Habits- One girl teaches youths about healthy lifestyle choices

Gold Award Girls

The following entry was written by Elizabeth Twichell, who was the mastermind behind the nutrition program "Breaking Bad Eating Habits!" Her project was designed to increase awareness of the impact of good dietary choices within a healthy lifestyle. Keep reading to find out about her motivation, challenges and how she overcame them.


The summer before my senior year of high school, I completed my Girl Scout Gold Award project with Breakthrough Austin, an organization that helps middle school students from low-income backgrounds be the first in their families to graduate from college. I selected this project because I was familiar with Breakthrough through its partnership with my high school and had volunteered as a mentor during my sophomore year. Consequently, I knew how the organization worked, what its strengths were, and what I felt was missing. Breakthrough already had a longstanding fitness program called "Breakthrough Gets Fit,” but, although exercise is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, nutrition must complement it in order to be truly healthy. So, over the course of 112 hours, I implemented a nutrition program into the summer session of Breakthrough Austin. My project, entitled “Break-ing Bad Eating Habits!” was designed to increase awareness of good nutritional practices, addressing topics like the importance of home cooking and reading nutrition labels. I presented my project through a series of 10 lessons at the University of Texas at Austin’s University Teaching Center and arranged to have the Healthy Lifestyles Chair of the Texas PTA come to relate healthy eating habits to academic performance. My nutrition program will be a key component of Breakthrough Austin’s summer program for years to come.

My goals in my project were to inspire youths from low-income families to improve their quality of life by eating healthier foods on a regular basis. Despite my careful planning, however, I encountered scheduling conflicts and technical issues throughout the course of the summer. A few days, I even arrived at the UTC and was told that I would be unable to present my lesson due to complications beyond my control. Since the nutrition program was new to Breakthrough this summer, the Breakthrough staff had to balance the original Breakthrough summer program with the schedule for my project. Consequently, plans sometimes changed and I had to be flexible. To ensure I was still able to cover enough material, I pushed back lessons a day or two, and prioritized which lessons I felt were the most important to present to the Breakthrough students.

Throughout my Gold Award project, I learned much about interacting with professionals, teaching students, creating lesson plans, public speaking, and efficient organization. My contact with Breakthrough staff and with the guest speaker I arranged taught me the proper etiquette used when working with professionals. While planning my lessons, I carefully designed outlines before making PowerPoint slides to maximize effective teaching in a short period of time. Sometimes I even rehearsed my lessons before presenting them so I wouldn’t falter while teaching the students. I developed an organized system for presenting each lesson, which included an introduction, a demonstration or interesting hook to attract the students’ attention, a series of key points, and a review assessment. Clearly, even though the students were supposed to be learning from me, I learned many invaluable lessons about myself that I will remember in the future.

For other Girl Scouts thinking about pursuing their Gold Award: Start early! More than half of the hours that went into my project were spent planning and organizing the resources needed, so it is always a good idea to start thinking about your project several months before you plan to put it into action. Choose a project you feel confident about doing with an organization you are familiar with. Lastly, don’t be intimidated of working with professionals, be patient and flexible with scheduling conflicts as they arise, and don’t forget to thank those who have helped you along the way!

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