A Theatre In Education project being conducted by the National Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Commission of the Ministry of Health called Play in a Day, has given a revealing look into the lifestyles and eating habits of students of the Holy Innocents Primary School.

This was disclosed by Project Facilitator and drama teacher, Amanda Cumberbatch-Matthias, at a recent workshop at the school.

The findings showed that pupils who took part in the project consumed too many sugars and salt in their diets. Many of them, she said, were unaware of the long-term dangers of eating unhealthy, are now in a position to share and teach what they learnt during the all-day programme with their peers and their parents.

According to Mrs. Cumberbatch-Matthias, some students admitted to some worrying habits. ??These included: adding as many as five teaspoons of sugar to a single cup of tea; drinking up to two carbonated drinks a day – which exceeds the recommended daily amount of sugars; putting salt on fruits "to make them taste better" and eating too many salty snacks, especially at break and lunch times.

The facilitator noted that the parents were setting bad examples by buying, preparing and eating unhealthy meals themselves. Mrs. Cumberbatch-Matthias, who is a specialist in Theatre In Education and a doctoral candidate at Warwick University in the United Kingdom, told the children they were the ones who needed to be agents of change when it came to proper nutrition. She encouraged them to try new foods and to

monitor what their parents bought at the supermarket, as well as how they prepared meals at home.

"You can encourage them to read labels in order to check the sodium and sugar contents of products. Also, you can tell them that they don’t need to add salt to meals during the cooking process but, instead, add it afterwards. Go and look and see just how much salt they are adding to [the family pot]. I know, sometimes, they will tell you get out of the kitchen but pay attention to what is cooking," she advised the group of nine and 10 year-olds.

She said the programme, which explored the six Caribbean food groups, was effective since it was interactive. She further noted that pupils got an opportunity to sing and act out a skit at the end of the day, which depicted what they learnt during the programme.

"When we did it at Good Shepherd Primary School last week, there was an evaluation session afterwards where Mr. Bolden [from the Ministry of Education] was asking them what they learnt and they told him they now know how to read food labels and so on. One of the skits that we do is the story of Jay.?? He reads food labels because he is concerned about what his mum is buying. She’s not the healthiest shopper and he took an interest because of his experience in the classroom.

"He reads the food labels and teaches his mum as they go through the supermarket. We know that behaviour doesn’t change like that but any amount of interventions you can do will be useful because as they grow older it [the knowledge] will click, hopefully," she said.

The Theatre In Education programme encourages the use of the voice, movements and dramatic expression to communicate ideas and information.?? It allows participants to perform and present stories to an audience, thus enhancing confidence in presentation and public speaking and to foster a sense of achievement, as the final product is presented at the day’s end.


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