We are honored to have so many amazing people implementing The OrganWise Guys programming around the country and we love the opportunity to share their stories! Shalimar Ruggiero, MS, RD, LD/N works for a Childhood Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Program called Kids Hip To Be Fit which has been funded by a grant from The Children’s Trust for the past six years.
OWG: Tell us a little more about Kids Hip To Be Fit
Shalimar: The uniqueness of our program, is that it operates in two Miami Beach Elementary Schools and it is the only program in the nation to have a full-time dietitian on-site at the school (myself and Mrs. Somers). I teach nutrition education to each PreK through 6th grade class once a week for 30 minutes. That’s approximately 700 students a week! We also hold a monthly cooking class for the parents throughout the school year.
OWG: You’ve told us that you are a huge fan o the OWG. Why do you love this program?Shalimar: Engaging kids is a very challenging task but most challenging is keeping their attention. Thanks to the OWG program this has been a breeze.
OWG: How have you seen kids respond to the programming?
Shalimar: My students light up each time I come to class with OrganWise Gal or Guy. They quickly learn all of the character’s names and they love to tell me and their classmates why each of them is important and what their favorite food is! I love the fact that they are learning about their most important possession – their bodies – in such an amazingly fun and creative way! The videos and activites are extremely enjoyable to them and when we go on the website to play games, they are ecstatic!
OWG: It sounds like you are doing a lot of creative things to maximize the program. Can you share some of your favorite lessons?
Shalimar: I always think if I were their age, what would I like to do? PLAY PLAY PLAY! We constantly play games that revolve around the OWG. For example, we do a cheer: If I raise PERI STOLIC they automatically say “HIGH FIBER,” if I raise HARDY HEART they say “LOW-FAT,” if I raise THE KIDNEY BROTHERS they say “LOTS OF WATER,” and for MADAME MUSCLE, “EXERCISE.” I also do a lot of food tasting with them. One of their very favorite things is to have me blindfold them, put a piece of fruit in their mouth and then guess what it is! I found this to be extrememely successful in getting kids to try new fruits like pomegranates, starfruit, papaya! After they guess, they have to tell me which OWG loves that fruit or veggie and why! If I bring in low-fat yogurt or make low-fat cheese pizzas they’ll say Calci M. Bone and Hardy Heart would be the happiest! When I teach them the water lesson they know that it is The Kidney Brothers favorite (I can just see OWG water bottles with The Kidney brothers on them). Also, at the end of every school year, each one of my classes has a nutrition party. The children design an invitation for their parents with their favorite OWG on the cover and then they make a list of the foods they are allowed to bring!
OWG: Is there a particular child who has been impacted by the program who inspires you?Shalimar: I must say after reading this question at least 10 students popped directly into my mind! One that particularly stands out is a second grader (whom I have been calling Sir Rebrum since he was in grade K). He tells me that thanks to the OWG and Ms. Shalimar’s nutrition classes, he now likes to eat fruits and vegetables because Sir Rebrum is responsible for the rest of the body so he has to take good care of himself first!
OWG: One of the challenges is getting this information from the school into the home. How are you addressing this difficulty?
Shalimar: I used to think that these kids were too young to impact their families but I have proved otherwise! THEY are the ones teaching their parents that they don’t need whole milk after the age of 2! Some refuse for their parents to take them to fast food restaurants. Others insist that the cereal their parents buy is made with whole grains and low sugar with no artificial colors! These children are the programs’ biggest advocates!
OWG: Who is your favorite OWG character and why?
Shalimar: Oh, that is a tough one! My students would say Hardy Heart and The Kidney Brothers but I love all the girls – Calci M. Bone, Madame Muscle and Peri Stolic equally! I always tell them that Calci M. Bone and Madame Muscle live in a two-story house where Calci lives on the bottom floor and Madame Muscle on top. They are best friends and everywhere Madame Muscle goes so does Calci. This is crucial to their understanding of how important it is to move the body. And of course, the other way to “move” the body is through Peri. Her job is of utmost important!
We’re so thankful for Shalimar and the lessons she’s teaching her kids (some pictured below)!