The Flaming Vegan

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Teaching Kids About Nutrition
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Teaching Kids About Nutrition

I'm a teacher who teaches in a fairly progressive community. When I began teaching 18 years ago, many of my families were vegetarian. As the years have moved by, and the idea and practice of raising "local, humane" animal foods has become prevalent, more and more parents have gone back to consuming "better" meats, raw dairy products, and local eggs. They are convinced that because of the local and humane labels, that these foods are actually best for their children. And who can blame them? Most of us were raised to believe that milk, eggs, and meat were the staples of the western diet. And there are plenty of articles out there to support and continue these claims. Mark Bittman of the New York Times isn't making matters any better with his VB6 (Vegan Before 6) plan.

This year, I'm teaching 7th grade and we recently had our Anatomy and Physiology block (we teach 3-4 weeks of each subject). During this block I covered the respiratory system, the digestive system, the circulatory system and reproduction. Most parents freak out over the reproduction section, but not in my class. This year, parents have been emailing me with their concerns about my veganism and how it might be affecting how I'm presenting material. In my school, teachers are able to create their own lesson plans while following a set curriculum. I have a lot of latitude when it comes to lessons, for which I am grateful.

So am I biased? I sure am, and it is damn hard not to lecture about what I know to be the facts about our food choices. All of my kids know I'm vegan. When there are parties, they always bring vegan food for me. And they ask questions at lunch when they see what I've brought to eat. I tell them what my food choices are and why, but that until they are old enough to make their own decisions based on their own research, they have to follow their parent's diets, which I find difficult to say. My hands are tied. I do have kids who would love to be vegetarian but their parents won't let them. I have one girl in my class whose mother is studying to be a nurse and has "all the latest" information about nutrition. She's one who has emailed me the most. I send her articles and information, but she's more apt to believe what she's learning in college, which is the standard American diet (SAD). Then there is the boy who loves to eat meat, and who complained to his mom and dad that he felt "offended" whenever the topic of vegetarianism came up in class. He said he felt singled out and didn't want to feel bad about eating meat. I've never proposed that any of my kids try to eat less meat or dairy, or even become vegetarian. I always preface any information with, "this is what I have read, and this is what I choose. "

It's frustrating, as are most situations when one is choosing to be vegan, but I figure that if nothing else, I'm leading by example. My kids will remember our conversations and I'm willing to bet that some will choose a vegan lifestyle at some point in their lives. Maybe it will be my avid meat eater. One can dream.

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  1. km4
    I am considering a career as an elementary school teacher (grades K-1 ideally), and am feeling very concerned about the aspect of having to teach "traditional" nutrition in class. I am curious what amount of nutrition curriculum is required for this young age though; it would clearly be difficult to teach about meat/dairy as an ethical vegan! Any advice for someone on the fence??
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