Unit 1: Conditions & Connections

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Unit 2: Physical Well-Being
Unit 3: Social Well-Being
Unit 4: Emotional Well-Being
Unit 5: Mental Well-Being
Unit 6: Academic Well-Being
Unit 7: Character

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Unit 8: Citizenship

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Unit 9: Supplemental Lessons

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Lesson 1: Physiological Basic Needs

The purpose of this lesson is to give educators time to reflect on their overall health, including how they are personally meeting some basic physiological needs: nutrition, exercise, and sleep. By providing some resources and time to research, we aim to promote self-driven health, with educators leading healthy decisions in their lives, tied to their holistic well-being.

It is important to note what this lesson is not: 

  • This lesson is not designed to preach fad diets or marketed health advice. 
  • This lesson is not intended to provide the “perfect” plan for participants.
  • This lesson is not focused on body image or body shaming.
  • This lesson is not supposed to double to-do lists or stress participants out.
  • This lesson is not intended to inundate educators with useless information.
  • We DO want this lesson to leave educators feeling reflective and empowered.

At the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy are physiological needs. These are the basic self-preserving needs such as food, water, and shelter. These are biological needs that must be met in order to survive. If these needs are not met, the human body cannot function properly. Our actions are motivated to meet these needs. When we think about what makes us happy and what motivates us to do certain things, we begin first with physiological or basic needs. Once these lower-level needs have been met, people can move on to the next level of needs, which include safety and security.

Nutrition, exercise, and sleep are all essential to overall health. Effective nutrition provides the nourishment and nutrients that our physical bodies need to develop properly, feel well, and discourage disease. Regular exercise increases needed strength and moves oxygen and needed nutrients through the body. (Mayo Clinic Staff) Exercise can even help you to sleep longer and more deeply.

Bodies use specific nutrients from food and water to build up and maintain body parts by breaking the food and water down into their chemical components. When the foods we eat consistently are missing these essential chemical components, the body’s systems and overall functioning are disrupted. These disruptions can have drastic short and long-term effects on our overall health. Selecting primarily nutrient-rich foods, properly balancing the types of foods we eat, and adding variety to our diets encourages long-term, optimal health. We can use our nutritional choices to encourage our bodies to perform better, sleep better, and be better. 

Exercise and physical activity provide many health benefits. Adding physical activity into a daily routine increases brain function, lung capacity, blood flow, and muscle tissue. In addition, research has shown that daily exercise can improve sleep quality, life expectancy, and happiness. 

The quality of our sleep is greatly affected by our routines, especially those just before bedtime. Nutrition, exercise, medications, as well as our daily schedules can impact healthy sleep. Developing good “sleep hygiene,” or sleep habits, can greatly improve our ability to both fall asleep and stay that way. When our sleep is not long enough or deep enough, our mental and physical health can feel the impact.

This lesson would be a great opportunity to practice good nutrition and hydration by providing staff with healthy snacks and water bottles. Good food can create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Activity 1: (5 Minutes) DISCUSSION

Review Maslow’s Hierarchy by projecting it on the board. 

Have a discussion about the lowest level of the hierarchy: Physiological Needs. 

  • What are your insights and perceptions about your own ability to do your best work when your basic needs are not being met? 
  • What is our responsibility when these basic needs are not being met for our students? 
  • What can we do as a school to help make sure that leaders are taking care of you?

Activity 2: (10 Minutes) VIDEO AND DISCUSSION

Watch the video, “Can you spot the problem with these headlines?” by Jeff Leek and Lucy McGowan at TEDEd.

Have a discussion:

  • How can you tell if a source is reputable or not?
  • Why is it important to use trustworthy sources when it comes to our health?

Extension: Conduct an anonymous poll using an online poll or by writing 

answers on scraps of paper and collecting them.

  • When you hear the words health, nutrition, exercise, or sleep, what comes to mind?
  • Why can it be difficult to talk about physical health?
  • What concerns do you have about yourself or loved ones when it comes to health? How do those concerns affect you?

Activity 3: (5 Minutes) RESEARCH CAUTIONS

There are many health resources online and so much misleading information to sort through. Locating trustworthy and helpful information can have a great impact on healthy choices. 

As a group, read through the checklist displayed on the slide: 

Checklist for Finding Good Sources (National Institute on Aging)

  1. Is the sponsor/owner of the website a Federal agency, medical school, or large professional or nonprofit organization, or is it related to one of these?
  2. If not sponsored by a Federal agency, medical school, or large professional or nonprofit organization, is the website written by a healthcare professional or does it reference one of these trustworthy sources for its health information?
  3. Why was the site created? Is the mission or goal of the website sponsor clear?
  4. Can you see who works for the agency or organization and who authored the information? Is there a way to contact the sponsor of the website?
  5. When was the information written or the web page last updated?
  6. Is your privacy protected?
  7. Does the website offer unbelievable solutions to your health problem(s)? Are quick, miracle cures promised?

Display this list of sources and ask the group what other health sources they trust: 

Activity 4: (10 Minutes) THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE

Daily habits affect our health, but making lasting changes can be hard. There are lots of reasons for good habits not to stick, reasons why willpower alone may not be enough to create lasting change. These reasons are valid and cannot be ignored. Kerry Patterson, author of Change Anything, recommends looking at six influences that can inhibit change. When reframed, however, these influences can actually work in our favor. We can eliminate pitfalls and create the path of least resistance so that eating well and exercising melds into our everyday lives seamlessly.

Display these graphics and use the Change Anything handout for any needed clarification:

Slide: The Six Influences

Motivation Ability
Personal Personal Motivation

Love What You Hate

(individual motivation to act)

Personal Ability

Do What You Can’t

(individual ability to act)

Social Social Motivation

Turn Accomplices

(social motivation to act)

Social Ability

Into Friends

(social help to aid ability)


(Careful! Just buying things doesn’t fix a habit)

Structural Motivation

Use Incentives

(space motivates action)

Structural Ability

Control Your Space

(use of tools, access, space)

Here is what it could look like when it comes to physical health:

Slide: The Six Influences (An Example with Exercise)

Goal: Get Stronger Motivation Ability
Personal I want to be strong. I need to learn how to use the weight machines at the gym.
Social I will invite my best friends to join me. I will contact my friend who is a personal trainer and ask her for tips.
Structural I will post a picture of the human body with muscles on my mirror. I will use my health app to track my consistency.

Slide: The Six Influences (An Example with Nutrition)

Goal: Eat More Veggies Motivation Ability
Personal I don’t eat vegetables because I don’t know how to cook them.  Learn some new cooking techniques.
Social I really enjoy cooking with my sister. My sister knows a lot about cooking delicious meals with vegetables.
Structural I will follow some YouTube channels of chefs who cook vegetables. I will lay out the vegetables that I want to use for dinner in the morning.

Slide: The Six Influences (An Example with Sleep)

Goal: Improve Sleep Motivation Ability
Personal I want to feel energized during the day. I need to find out how many hours of sleep make me feel my best.
Social I can establish a sleeping schedule with other family members. I can read some sleeping tips with my family members.
Structural I can buy warm, comfy pajamas that I am excited to wear to bed. I can set an alarm on my phone to tell me when to go to bed and when to wake up.

Activity 5: (5 Minutes) VIDEO AND DISCUSSION

Watch the video, “What Happens if You Get 1% Better Every Day?” by James Clear (author of Atomic Habits), describing how tiny changes can make a big difference. 

Have a discussion:

  • What might this 1% idea look like in nutrition or exercise?
  • Does this 1% idea make you feel more momentum and motivation? 
  • Why do we sometimes try to set such lofty, large goals?

Activity 6: (15 Minutes) NUTRITION 

Read a couple simple rules that are based on good dietary principles. This should apply to the whole group, no matter what their individual circumstances are. They are found in the USDA’s “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

  • Rule #1: “Meet nutritional needs primarily from nutrient-dense foods and beverages.”
  • Rule #2: “Choose a variety of options from each food group.”
  • Rule #3: “Pay attention to portion size.” 

When we listen to our bodies and pay attention to how it feels when we fill it with nutritious foods, we can experience the health benefits and be holistically well. 

Have a discussion: 

  • How does nutrition affect your mind? Mental health? Relationships? Wellness? Sleep?
  • What are the barriers to good nutrition at our school?

Because everyone probably has a different knowledge-base and interest in nutrition, participants will have 15 minutes to explore some resources tailored just to them. Using reputable sources, pick a couple choices to explore and answer (The Lesson Links handout has live links to the following resources):

  • Choice #1: Identify the most common fad diets and explain how these extreme recommendations can affect the overall balance and well-being of individuals. 
  • Choice #2: Explore the Dietary Guidelines website to find out the recommended nutritional advice for your specific age group, etc. Learn about mindful eating.
  • Choice #3: Learn about macronutrients. Define them, list examples of foods that contain them, and discover the benefits. These include: carbohydrates, protein and amino acids, fats/cholesterol, fiber, water, and energy. Explore food labels.
  • Choice #4: Learn about micronutrients. Define them, list examples of foods that contain them, and discover the benefits. Explore food labels
  • Choice #5: Make a list of yummy, nutrient-rich foods that you would like to try. Try to include plenty of variety and even ingredients that you have never heard of. 
  • Choice #6: Make a grocery shopping list, pulling ingredient ideas from My Plate.
  • Choice #7: Locate some tasty, nutrient-dense recipes. Share them.
  • Choice #8: Learn about the impact of water on our health. How much should you drink?
  • Choice #9: Watch videos of chefs preparing nutrient-rich ingredients and learn how to cook them better yourself. Schedule a cooking activity with a loved one.
  • Choice #10: Look for free courses on nutrition using Coursera, Udemy, and USDA.

Have a discussion: 

  • What did you learn or what was a good reminder?
  • Did you discover a resource that you feel others ought to know about?
  • With so much information out there, how can you find what you need without getting overwhelmed or stressed?
  • Is there anything simple that we could change in our work environment to support good nutrition? 

Activity 7: (15 Minutes) EXERCISE

Watch the video, “What happens inside your body when you exercise?” by the British Heart Foundation. (encourage participants to stand/stretch while watching. Read and discuss the following quotes:

  • “Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults. No matter your health and physical abilities, you can gain a lot by staying active. In fact, studies show that ‘taking it easy’ is risky. Often, inactivity is more to blame than age when older people lose the ability to do things on their own. Lack of physical activity also can lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses.”
  • “Adults need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve their healthaerobic activity and muscle strengthening… Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity gain some health benefits… We know 150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, but it’s not. That could be 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. The good news is that you can spread your activity out during the week, so you don’t have to do it all at once. You can even break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. Learn more about finding a balance that works for you.”

Because everyone probably has a different knowledge-base and interest in exercise, participants will have 15 minutes to explore some resources tailored just to them. Using reputable sources, pick a couple choices to explore and answer. (The Lesson Links handout has live links to the following resources):

Have a discussion: 

  • What did you learn or what was a good reminder?
  • Did you discover a resource that you feel others ought to know about?
  • Is there anything we can do as staff to improve movement at school? 
  • Has anyone found any tips or tricks that they use to stay active at work?
  • What are the challenges/roadblocks when balancing work and exercise?
  • Can administration do anything during school time or during school meetings to help with your physical wellness?
  • Exercise has become part of our public health image in the trend of sharing workouts, posting mileage, etc. Do you think this helps motivate? Or does this become a form of toxic comparison?
  • What is something that has kept you from exercising in the past? How did you overcome it? If not, looking back, what would you change?


Read the definition of health literacy:

“Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions,” according to the Health Resources & Services Administration.

Finding accurate and timely health information is a challenge, especially for educators who have to write sub plans for any time that they take off for medical needs and are often busy writing lesson plans after work. Concerns about health and medicine can be overwhelming and impact mental wellness, so taking the time to discover applicable information could put educators at ease.

Give participants time to explore. Educators should take 15 minutes to explore resources related to their own medical health, or that of a loved one. Explore, then discuss (The Lesson Links handout has live links to the following resources):

Have a discussion:

  • What did you learn or what was a good reminder?
  • Did you discover a resource that you feel others ought to know about?
  • What are our district medical resources like? How is insurance? 

Activity 9: (5 Minutes) PERSONAL 1% IMPROVEMENT GOALS

There is a lot of information out there about health and wellness. It can be overwhelming, but pick some habits to improve by 1% that resonated for you today. Once you have some goals in mind, fill out the chart on the Improvements & Influences handout to mitigate any potential pitfalls. 


Have a discussion about student populations or members in the local community that don’t have their basic needs met: 

  • What is preventing them from having these needs met? 
  • What organizations are trying to help? 
  • What can we do to help?
  • How can you tell if a medical source is reputable or not?
  • What influences “get in your way” when striving for proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep?
  • What foods make your body feel its best?
  • What movements make your body its best?
  • How much sleep does your body need?
  • What medical information do you wish you knew more about?
  • What health concerns do you have about you or your loved ones?
  • What is your personal experience with having your basic needs met? 
  • What happens if your basic needs are not met? 
  • How do these needs impact your ability to do your best work and be your best self? 
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat mostly nutrient-dense food.
  • Listen to when your body needs food, and when it is full. Eat at least 3 meals a day.
  • Establish lifelong habits of health. 
  • Engage in physical activity every day.
  • Create a weekly exercise plan that you look forward to.
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. 
  • Try to find your ideal nighttime routine to improve sleep quality.
  • Invite a buddy to join you in your goals.
  • Making changes to our personal nutrition, exercise, and sleep habits can be difficult, especially when we are limiting ourselves by the stories we tell ourselves. Learn how these stories can affect our goals and habits by watching the Ted Talk “How Changing Your Story Can Change Your Life” by Lori Gottlieb. Following the video, write down a story you are telling yourself and consider other perspectives that you can use to see the full picture. 
  • Read about a variety of sleeping disorders on Verywell Health and how to combat them.
  • Set up a walking or jogging group with colleagues at the school. These can happen before school, during lunch, or after school. 
  • For work potlucks, create sign-up categories for fruits and vegetables. 
  • Watch the TED Talk “The Brain-Changing Benefits of Exercise” by Wendy Suzuki.
  • Further Reading and Videos: 
    • Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (January 21, 2022). Walk. Run. Dance. Play. What’s your move? ODPHP. https://health.gov/moveyourway 

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