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Learning must be fun

"The greatest possession in life is not the land you have conquered, nor the treasure in your coffers. The greatest possession in life is health, and there is much to know to preserve it," with this quote belonged to a medieval scientist, philosopher and physician Abu Ali Ibn Sina one of the participants in the teachers competition started her lesson on healthy eating. Organized by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) together with the Ministry of Education of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Social and Industrial Food Service Institute (SIFI) of Russia.

The School Nutrition Optimisation Programme, which has been operating in Kyrgyzstan for almost a decade, involves not only providing hot meals to primary school children, but also teaching them the principles of healthy eating. A special approach is needed to make learning fun and easy for young children. The main goal is to get the children interested in the topic, so that they themselves, without being lectured by adults, choose to maintain their health by eating sensibly from an early age.

The competition was launched in April this year. The mentors had to come up with the most interesting lesson on the topic of healthy eating, and it had to be authentic. One of the requirements of the competition was also to include the cartoon "The Secret Laboratory Inside Us. How our bodies digest food" created by WFP in partnership with SIFI.

Unfortunately, many of the entries (there were 86 in total) were not quite original. It turns out that not only pupils know how to cheat. After all, the competition was aimed at finding new methods of inspiration, using up-to-date technology and with the consideration of local colour. But, having separated the wheat from the chaff, the jury picked eight finalists, from which they named three winners.

Nevertheless, there were interesting pedagogical discoveries even among those who did not make it to the final eight. There were colourful presentations, practical experiments, and original skits, performed together with the children. However, not all managed to combine their pedagogical skills with methodological requirements and original approaches.

A primary school teacher from School No. 7 of the Osh city, Nurzada Karimova, for example, turned her lesson into an entertaining quest about healthy eating. All the pupils are divided into two teams and, by answering questions and completing various tasks, they learn a lot about the principles of a balanced diet. During the lesson, children do crossword puzzles, sort foods into harmful and healthy groups, and put together a healthy eating plate. An element of competitiveness raises the students' interest in such an entertaining lesson.

Govar Nasredinova is a primary teacher in Sosnovskaya school of the Chüy Region. Along with the summary of the lesson, she also submitted a video about how she performed it in her class this year. Her class begins with a short cartoon, which creates a pleasant atmosphere and introduces the topic of the lesson. The topic itself is to be suggested to the pupils with the help of clues on the slides. Pupils in general are actively involved during the lesson and even in the preparation itself. For example, one pupil interviewed the school nurse in advance about healthy eating. Surely, the video of the future journalist raised an interest among her classmates. The children’s attention will also be captured with the use of the electronic whiteboard, which can be used for different tasks on the topic of the lesson, e.g. separating healthy from unhealthy food on the whiteboard.

Umut Tezekova, the class teacher at the Maman village school in the Issyk-Kul Region, turned her lesson into an exciting, informative and, most importantly, diverse activity. In 45 minutes, the children have time to create a gallery of drawings from their homework, brainstorm to determine the topic of the lesson, take a break for a physical activity, take part in a quiz, and even make a healthy vitamin salad themselves. The jury was able to see how it all actually happens in the author's video, which captures the most exciting parts of the lesson. The lesson is by all means memorable, and, most importantly, the children will also remember the useful information they learned during the lesson.

It was Umut Tezekova who was picked by the jury, which included representatives from the UN WFP, SIFI, the Ministry of Education and Science of Kyrgyzstan as well as independent experts, the winner of the competition of innovative methodological developments on the topic of "Healthy Lifestyle" for primary school students. Nurzada Karimova and Govar Nasredinova took second and third prizes. They all received well-deserved rewards: a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone. Such competitions should be held in the future, believes Vera Savochkina, an expert at the Kyrgyz Academy of Education. "If you go to any school, you can see that a lot of work is being done to strengthen and preserve schoolchildren's health, but it is not systematic. Today the education system lacks common approaches and requirements for the methods of shaping healthy lifestyles among schoolchildren. Such competitions can be a great solution in this situation," – we are sure that all the members of the jury would also join her words.