Sports Nutrition revised to offer blended learning

Variation on the existing Foods and Sports Nutrition course involves online coursework and healthy habits



The new Foods and Sports Nutrition course utilizes technology and online learning to promote healthy lifestyle and food choices.

Next year, athletes will be able to make a light, healthy meal for themselves at school before going to practice as a part of a Foods course delivered like an eighth period class at Palo Alto High School.

Sports Nutrition, a Home Economics and Career Technical Education (CTE) course dedicated to students’ health and balanced lifestyles, will appear in two forms next semester — as a blended-learning class held during traditional school hours and as a lengthened afternoon class held once a week.

Teacher Theresa McDermott created the new option for students who would benefit from taking Foods as a lighter time commitment, and for students to eat something balanced as an alternative to Town and Country before running off to other activities.

“We would meet for about two hours or so, once a week, and much of the academic content of the course work would be delivered online,” McDermott said. “Much of our time in the classroom would be spent learning cooking techniques, and working on lots of different labs and projects.”

Students will take notes at home on Powerpoint presentations McDermott posts online and will come to class with comprehensive knowledge of the ingredients planned for the dishes. Though new in its flexible class times, the new Sports Nutrition course is not the first to teach students through online media. The current Sports Nutrition course also utilizes the same teaching method.

In addition to taking notes from presentation and taking online quizzes, students track their food intake with Supertracker, a program created by the United States Department of Agriculture to help consumers make healthy eating and exercise choices. By delivering “the content about good nutrition and an active lifestyle” outside of class, McDermott can reserve the regular four-hour week to cooking labs based on the information and introduce needed vitamins and minerals.

Blended learning has taken on different meanings as schools explore alternate, more engaging ways of teaching students. In most cases, blended learning involves teaching students through both traditional methods like lectures as well as project-based assignments. Blended learning has also meant introducing online aspects and outside-hours to regular courses.

Many courses on campus, such as the Paly publications and Advanced Placement Music Theory, count as blended learning classes.

Fundamentally, Foods courses operate on project-based curricula, so incorporating online informational content enters into blended learning. In creating Sports Nutrition, McDermott hoped to educate teenagers about the importance of nutrition and not just teach cooking.

“I think of Paly as a school that some of these students have a desire to be active, and to be healthy, and so I thought it would be a great new addition,” McDermott said.

Despite all the different health risks that come with different sports, all teenagers have unifying health issues, bone health being one of them.

“This is the time when you’re building your bone mass,” McDermott said. “And later in life not eating well might come back to haunt you and perhaps you’ll put yourself at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, for example.”

In college and professional sports, nutrition takes on an even larger role in maintaining a balanced lifestyle.Stanford football players study nutrition extensively and prioritize consuming a healthy breakfast each day, according to Shannon Turley, Director of Football Sports Performance.

All students can reap benefits from Sports Nutrition, not just athletes. Senior Eriana Davis viewed the class as an even mix of student-athletes and students not involved in sports.

With qualifications to meet the CTE requirements, Foods courses provide students with life-long culinary skills. Other CTEs involve programming, design and other skills to serve students in a wide range of careers. Davis said that although she did not consider herself an athlete, the class helped her see the benefits of regular exercise.

“I learned little things like if you walk just 20 minutes a day, that’ll help you digest better and speed up your metabolism,” Davis said. “The class enforced in me that it’s not about just being skinny, necessarily, it’s about being healthy.”