This post is incredibly overdue, however has been inspired by a repeated contract of a Max in the Middle tour. Max in the Middle is a project that I helped deliver through NHS Forth Valley, between January and March of this year. The next tour will begin in September.
Max in the Middle is an initiative set up by NHS Forth Valley. It aims to give children autonomy over what they are doing, and explores activities to which they take empowerment of their own choices. It encourages children to make good choices, to eat healthily and well and to lead a physically active lifestyle.
It takes place over week intensives with classes in the Forth Valley area, and is delivered by a dance specialist and a drama specialist. The drama specialist helps children to use their voice, to have their own voice and the empowerment, tools and opportunity to say what they want to say.
As dance specialist, I encouraged children to be active. I truly believe that dance is an incredible way to discuss issues, and that we can do so in such an informal and active manner. With dance, you don’t have to split the class into teams, explain the rules and hand out sticks or balls. Instead you just get dancing (of course with a warm-up first). I often don’t tell participants what I am going to do with them; they don’t even realise they are dancing. In fact, we are all just moving around the space, moving together and working together as individuals and as a class. Before they know it, they’ve done an hour of dance, of physical activity.
Max in the Middle also encourages children to prepare their own food. Tasty Tuesday gave children opportunity to make, prepare and taste a 3 course meal. The ingredients for this are all cheap and accessible; tinned salmon, that can of course be upgraded to smoked or fresh were the child/parent to wish to do so. And all of the ingredients are not too extravagant, enabling even those fussy to eaters to possibly give something a try. Scottish oatcakes are used, with a variety of cheeses. Tinned and frozen fruit is used as part of the dessert, purely for cost and accessibility, however of course, as like the salmon this can be upgraded to fresh. However all of the food prepared is healthy, nutritious, and together provides a balanced meal that is easy for the children to prepare.
I loved facilitating Tasty Tuesday, as it not only proved a nice break from dance, but was refreshing to engage with the children in such a different way. As well as this, it tied very nicely into Workout Wednesday. We need to provide our bodies the necessary input to deliver a full output in dance. It was great to not just have the opportunity to explain what we need to put into our bodies and the benefits of this, but to show them, through exercise, food preparation and of course the drama scenes and discussion.
Max in the Middle encourages children to work with new people. The teacher comes with us for the week, and it gives them opportunity to see the children working with one another, the class dynamic and allows them opportunity to see their children working in a way that they are not leading the class. All the teachers on the Max tour were incredibly helpful, and supportive of us as teachers and of the project, which has been running for 10 years, an incredible feat for a participatory arts project.
NHS Forth Valley recognise the importance of prevention rather than cure. The money was supposed to go to obesity clinics, however it was difficult to engage with those needing the clinics the most, and without the needing attending, it was difficult to make a difference. Encouraging primary 7’s to take choices in their lifestyles helps make a difference to not just them, but their families also. If we can encourage a healthy diet and regular exercise at such a young age, we can possibly make a bit of a difference.
We are at crisis for obesity levels in the UK. In the US, half of the child population are obese. In the UK we have 33% of our children obese, with a prediction for that to be 50% by 2050. This is something we need to act on.
What I loved about delivering Max in the Middle was giving children the choice, encouraging them to make decisions about their lifestyle and providing them the knowledge and skills they need to insure that these are healthy choices. Opening up the discussion with teachers and classmates encourages open correspondence and conversations between them, which can be continued long after the project. Discussing our lifestyle habits can really be an encouraging way of highlighting any issues or problems and providing ways to tackle these.
I was very honoured to be invited back to team teach another tour of Max in the Middle, and am very much so looking forward to meeting lots more children, and delivering the project to them.