What 10 year olds can teach us 

Eating like an Olympian, and more

click to enlarge FOOD FOR THOUGHT Myrtle Philip students Jack Morrow and Abby Unruh took part in a class project called "Do you eat like an Olympian," to learn more about nutrition.
  • FOOD FOR THOUGHT Myrtle Philip students Jack Morrow and Abby Unruh took part in a class project called "Do you eat like an Olympian," to learn more about nutrition.

Would you let a 10 year old cut your hair? How about plan your weekly menu?

Before answering, let me tell you about the first question, which drove one of my best theatre experiences ever.

At Vancouver's 2008 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, Mammalian Diving Reflex — a cool Toronto-based arts group that often celebrates kids — set up Haircuts by Children. In it, 10 year olds from a Surrey school cut and styled the hair of volunteers like me, all of it filmed.

Last year, Mammalian returned to PuSh with Eat the Street. This time, (grade fivers and sixers) were restaurant critics, weighing in on food, service and décor. You could dine with them in Vancouver restaurants and hear what they had to say.

Personally, I love what Mammalian's artistic director, Darren O'Donnell, has to say about kids: they should have the right to vote. I'd add that a 10 year old should sit on every Canadian committee and board — political or otherwise.

And after reading Portion Size Me by young Marshall Reid and his mom, and talking with 10 year olds from Myrtle Philip Community School who were part of teacher Lisa Smart's "Do you eat like an Olympian?" project, I'd say, yes, definitely, let 10 year olds plan your menu. Heck, they should sit on every healthy-eating committee from here to Ottawa.

But let's start with Marshall, whose new book inspired me to look for Whistler's nutrition-smart kids in the first place.

Marshall's story is too familiar. He was overweight. Unhappy. His classmates made fun of him. He couldn't run and keep up with them and play tag.

Fearing his unhappiness would continue, when he was 10 he asked his mom, Alex, if they could be healthy for one month and do the opposite of the Super Size Me documentary, where filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eats at McDonald's for 30 days.

Marshall and his family did — for one month, then another. They kept right on going, and Portion Size Me: A Kid-Driven Plan to a Healthier Family was one of the results.

Full of stories about the Reids' experience — including their failures — and easy-to-digest facts on healthy eating and portion sizes (Marshall and his mom are careful not to "lecture"), the book is a fun and effective way to get on track to good nutrition.

Ditto "Do you eat like an Olympian?", Smart's project for teaching nutrition to her Grade 4 and 5 students. Nutrition is part of the B.C. curriculum starting in kindergarten, but Smart wanted to really bring it home.

"I got to go to the Olympics this summer in London with a friend of mine, and I met the nutritionist for the Canadian triathlon team," she says. "That was inspiring!

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