Merryhill students live healthy for a day

Students give up television, video games and junk food
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Amber Lorimer drinks soda and eats ice cream and fudge, but only on a rare occasion. The fourth grader at Merryhill School in Roseville prefers, instead, to feed her body with nutritious foods. “I like to eat healthy stuff more than non-healthy stuff,” Amber said. That’s why it wasn’t a big adjustment for Amber, 10, to give up junk food Monday as part of the private school’s “Giving Without Walls” program. She also gave up television and video games and committed to 60 minutes of exercise. “I’ve seen people sick at hospitals and I don’t want to end up like that,” Amber said. The school recently launched its new statewide social entrepreneurship curriculum, Giving Without Walls, to teach students about civic responsibility and encourage social engagement. Each grade is assigned a focus area, which turned out to be health and wellness for the fourth grade class. Other classes focus on animal welfare, environment, intergenerational needs, disaster prevention and literacy. Teacher Lindsey Ziemann said the students considered cancer and smoking, but ultimately settled on childhood obesity because the issue most-closely affects them. The children decided to promote healthy lifestyles through “Healthy Living Day.” Throughout May, each student will refrain from eating junk food, playing video games and watching television for one whole day. The kids must also do an hour of physical activity. The 15 students in Ziemann’s fourth and fifth grade class are participating, but 40 other kids also signed up, which means more than half of the school’s 98 students will live healthy for one day — with the goal that they make the commitment long term. “The kids have been encouraging (each other),” Ziemann said. Merryhill Schools in Roseville, Sacramento and Stockton are part of Nobel Learning Communities, Inc., a network of 180 private schools in 15 U.S. states that recently introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship to students at the elementary level. Students lead all phases of the process of creating a service project and make all decisions together. As Amber chowed down on some apples Monday, she thought about her evening plans. She planned to clean her room, read a book and eat dinner. She would not watch television or play with her iPod or Nintendo DS video games. She said her mom agreed to give up television that night and dad might even refrain from playing Halo on the computer. Amber had plenty of exercise to keep her busy — she does karate and plays soccer. “I (also) go to the park by my house and ride my bike with my dad and take walks,” she said. Sena Christian can be reached at