FDN class project serves as icebreaker and eye opener

November 25th, 2014 Author: Cal Powell  |  706-542-3536  |  More about Cal
Contact: Emma Laing  |  706-542-7983  | More about Emma

The poster on the first floor of Dawson Hall tells the story: there’s a sprinter coming out of the blocks, a woman and her family in full karate uniform, a young male student proudly showing off his garden. 

The pictures are the result of FDN professor Emma Laing’s idea for a classwide icebreaker. She asked students in her Lifecycle Nutrition class to share what inspires them to lead a healthy lifestyle. She was flooded with responses.

“I received such a fantastic variety of photos of the students preparing healthy foods, growing or foraging their own food, being physically active themselves or with others or with their pets and even engaging the UGA and Athens community in nutrition education,” Laing said.

Laing said the class covers infancy, childhood, adolescence and the elderly, but very little on the college student population. Laing’s project gave her students an opportunity to share a little glimpse into their own lives.

During each lecture, Laing highlighted two or three of the pictures and gave the students an opportunity to share additional details with their classmates.

“It was a great way to find out things about people I had seen,” class member Carolina Cawthon said. “I got to learn a lot about them and now I feel like I know them a little bit better.”

Cawthon, who owns and operates Contemporary Martial Arts in Hartwell with her husband, brought in a photo of her with her entire family, including two granddaughters, in full karate uniform. 

“The family participation in martial arts and then of course just wanting to be there for my family are the two things that inspire me to be healthy and stay active,” she said.

Laing’s teaching assistant, Katie Norris, brought in a picture of her hiking. She said the project helped make the class of 65 students seem a little more intimate.

“It’s cool because I feel like it serves as a reminder of why we’re in this major and why we’re so passionate about this,” Norris said. “It was inspirational, really, to hear all the things people have done.”

One of the benefits of the project, Cawthon said, was seeing the great diversity of interests among her classmates. In addition to runners and hikers, there were photos of classmates backpacking across Europe and ziplining in Costa Rica.

“I see a lot of people shy away from adopting healthy habits because they have this narrow idea of what being healthy means,” Cawthon said. “They think it means you never eat anything that tastes good and you spend eight hours a day in the gym. I think seeing so many people doing so many different things, it just opens your mind and makes you realize there are a lot of paths that lead to a healthier end result.”

For Cawthon, raised in the nearby town of Hartwell, the project was one of the highlights of her college career.

“This kind of project is a great thing for these huge classes,” she said. “This is one of the best things I’ve seen a teacher do since I’ve been here to bring the class together so that we know each other better. We’ll all be professionals in the same field so we need to know each other.”

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