Give Them the Tools: They’ll Use Them.

During the thirty-minute drive to Waterboro, Maine, I thought about what I would say to the sixty middle school students who waited there for me. What would they understand about Guiding Stars? What would interest them? Maybe their parents would have been a more appropriate audience for the message I was about to give, a message of nutrition, better choices and the hope for a change in the way so many of us are used to eating.

I finally pulled into the long driveway at Massabesic Middle School. With the students already in class, I walked through the quiet hallways to the classroom I’d soon be presenting in.

Then they started showing up. They’re at that age where they look at a stranger standing in front of the room, maybe give a polite smile, maybe pretend they don’t see you. Either way, they headed straight for the friends they sit with to figure out what I’m doing standing there. I think to myself, “Please don’t make me the new victim of the popular kids,” who (as I remember them) are definitely way too cool for school and aren’t among the most open-minded when it comes to guest speakers.

Then like we are in some middle school movie, it happens. A quiet kid strolls in with about ten books in his hands, an overstuffed backpack and a clumsy way about him. Of course, what else would happen? He trips right in front of the entire class. My eyes dart up to gauge the reaction, but I know I have to get to him and help before the entire class erupts into laughter at his expense. As I rush over to help, I notice them, at first just one, then two, then three students are suddenly at his sides silently scooping up his papers and kindly passing them back to him. Nobody is laughing.

Suddenly, my nerves about what to say, what they will think of me and how they will respond to the information all vanish and I begin.

Forty-five minutes later, after a special version of Guiding Stars Bingo, Pictionary, “Guess the Stars,” and a few other made-up games to help teach them about nutrition, I was flooded with questions. I realized they were curious, captive and interested the entire time and wanted to learn more. They begged their teacher to let them use laptops in their next class to look at the Guiding Stars Food Finder I had just introduced them to, so they could find out if their favorite foods received stars or not. Sure, it gets them out of normal class, but they still showed such interest that I couldn’t help but be pleased with myself.

I expected to go into Massabesic that day, run through my Guiding Stars facts, zip through lots of games that none of them really wanted to play (they were about nutritious foods) and leave, relieved that it was over. Instead I found students who genuinely cared about nutrition, who were interested in learning more and who already felt like they understood a great deal about Guiding Stars and its importance.

What I learned may be most important of all and it turns into some “Guiding Words,” if you will… Please, educate your children about eating more nutritiously by showing them the tools they have, but may be unaware of. They’ll listen.

Sixty students in Waterboro, Maine now have that tool, and I have every confidence they’re already beginning to guide their families to a more nutritious lifestyle in 2012.