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Featured GraphicServe Up Classroom Nutrition Activities!

Serve up a well-balanced nutrition unit! A "bunch" of activities to pick from!

 

  • A "Mystery Tasting Party" at Alice Byrne Elementary School introduced students to some unusual fruits and vegetables. If the students were unable to identify the "mystery food" by a taste, they were provided with other clues such as which vitamins it contained and where it was grown. By the time many of the unfamiliar foods (including kiwi, mango, jicama, and pomegranate) were unmasked, students had learned lots about them!
  • Students at Lincoln Elementary School created class presentations about fruits and vegetables. In their presentations, each student tried to persuade classmates to eat a particular fruit or vegetable by providing facts about its origin and its nutritional value.

Those are just a two of the creative activities designed by teachers to make learning about nutrition fun! Take your pick from a bunch of additional activities below that we've created for you. Serve them up as part of a well-balanced nutrition unit!

ACTIVITIES ACROSS THE CURRICULUM AND ACROSS THE GRADES

NOTE: The USDA issued new dietary guidelines in 2011; see the 2011 Dietary Guidelines Brochure. In addition, the USDA's Food Pyramid now has an updated companion, MyPlate.

Health. Create a bulletin board, or cut a large triangle out of mural paper or cardboard. Divide the triangle into sections that mirror those on the food pyramid. Then invite students to bring to school magazines and newspaper circulars that include pictures of foods. Students can cut out food pictures that fall into one of the six sections of the pyramid and paste them in the appropriate section of the pyramid. You might use the USDA's food pyramid coloring page with students, or you might use it as a guide for creating the mural-size pyramid.

The Internet is another good source of food images. Hundreds of sites offer clip art that can be printed out. Your students could cut images from those clip art sources. Following are a few sites that offer free food clip art. All sites of this nature should be check for appropriateness before allowing students to use them.

Classifying. Display two sheets of chart paper or divide a section of a blackboard into sections. Head one sheet or section "Worst Foods for Children." Head the other sheet "Best Foods for Children." Invite students to add foods to either list. When the lists are completed, your students might see how many items on their lists match the ten best and worst foods for kids published on the kids' pages of the Center for Science in the Public Interest's Web site.

Language arts -- story writing. Among all students' favorite stories are folk tales that explain "how the lion got its roar," "how the hyena got its laugh," and other quirks of animal nature. Invite students to write a story to explain how the raisin got its wrinkles, how the tomato got its color, how the peach got its fuzz, or another fact about the nature of fruits or vegetables.

Alphabetical order. Write the following list of fruits on a board or chart and invite students to arrange the list in alphabetical order. (Adjust the list according to your students' skills.)

raspberry grapefruit peach raisin
kiwifruit blueberry apricot mango
pear tangerine orange apple
strawberry watermelon cherry grapes
plum banana prune pineapple
cantaloupe lemon nectarine lime

Health -- food safety. Food handling and storage are major causes of health concern. Invite students to create posters that promote the rules of food safety. (For those rules -- and for a coloring book with pictures illustrating those rules for the youngest students -- see the USDA's Food Safety at Home, School, and When Eating Out Web pages. For additional resources, including classroom lessons, seasonal food safety tips, ten tips to a safe kitchen, and loads of links to other food-related sites for kids, be sure to check out Iowa State University's Food Safety Project.

Math -- filling out a table. Invite students to track for five days the number of servings they eat from each food group. Students can create their own charts or use the Education World Teaching Master form.

Graphing. Invite students to poll their classmates and to chart the results to a nutrition-related question. Kids might develop their own questions or choose one of the following:

  • What's your favorite fruit juice -- orange, apple, grape, grapefruit, or cranberry?
  • Which of these sandwiches do you prefer -- peanut butter and jelly, bologna, ham and cheese, salami, or turkey?
  • What's your favorite sandwich bread -- white, wheat, Italian, multi-grain, rye, or pita?
  • What's your favorite snack -- potato chips, apple, banana, grapes, orange, candy bar, carrots, or pudding?

Critical thinking/art. Look through magazines for food advertisements. Display the ads and discuss how the advertisers have used words and images (photos, art) to try to get you to buy their products. Talk about it: Does a good-looking ad mean the food must be good for you? Then invite each student to create an advertisement for a food that is healthful. Students should use words and images that really "sell" their products.

More hands-on science. Drinking is not the only source of water. People take in water in many foods they eat. How much water is in some foods? Provide students with a small slice of apple, banana, potato, and celery. Invite students to weigh each slice and to record that weight on a chart. (You'll need a good balance scale for this activity.) Leave the food slices under a lamp overnight; the light source should be about 1-1/2 feet above the food. The next day, students should weigh their foods again. Did the foods gain or lose weight? Why? (They lost weight because they lost water.) Which food lost the most weight, or water? the least? (Probably the apple lost the most and the banana the least.)

Language arts -- sequencing. Collect from your school or town library a few books that explain how products (e.g., pencils, ice cream, cars) are made. Share those books with your students. Then invite them to choose a food product (e.g., peanut butter, bread, milk). How is that product made? Students can write or draw the sequence of events involved in the creation of that product. The Internet might be a good resource for students to use.

Geography. Provide each student with a blank U.S. map. Invite students to use encyclopedias and other resources to learn which food products each state is known for. On the map, students should draw and label a fruit or vegetable grown in at least ten different states. (Adjust expectations according to your grade.)

More graphing. Invite all the students in your class to track the number of different vegetables they eat in a week. (For example, Heather had corn twice, green beans once, etc.) At the end of the week, tally the servings of vegetables eaten by the students and create a class graph to show how many servings of each vegetable were consumed. What was the most popular vegetable? (Notes: You might graph only the "top five" or "top ten" class vegetables, depending on the age and abilities of your students. You might have a separate category called "mixed salad.")

Language arts. Create a class nutrition book. The book might include students' favorite healthful snack recipes or students' favorite food-related jokes. (If a carrot and a cabbage ran a race, which one would win? The cabbage, because it's "a head." What do you call a tomato that talks back to a farmer? A fresh vegetable!) Or your students might create a "Fruits and Vegetables of the United States" book; include a page of information about the fruits and vegetables that are the leading products of each state.

Rhyming riddles. Invite students to create rhyming riddles about their favorite fruits and vegetables. For example:

I'm yellow and I'm sweet.
I'm what monkeys like to eat.
I grow in trees.
Serve me with peanut butter, please!
What am I? _______________________________

(Source: Dole's 5 A Day program)

Healthy cooking. No matter their age, most kids enjoy cooking. Choose an activity from either of these sites: Kitchen Fun for Kids or Kids' Heart-Healthy Recipes. Find more information about food choices at Healthy Eating and Nutrition.com, which offers dietary guidelines and tips for sensible eating.

Math. Invite students to plan a balanced menu for one day. (Foods from all groups on the food pyramid should be included. For younger students, the number of servings from each group might be on the lower end of the range listed for the group. For example, younger students might plan a menu with 6 servings from the bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group; older students' menus might include up to 11 servings.) Then invite students to use the Calorie Database or Calorie King Foods List to determine how many calories they will take in if they follow their menus. Students should keep a tally of calories as they go along.

Another source:
Nutrition on the Web for Teens
Click the Calorie Database, one of the links in the left margin; note that this database is based on the old food pyramid, but it is still a viable source of calorie information.

Critical thinking - compare and contrast. Invite students to compare food choices from the major chain restaurants using Fast Food Facts, the The Fast Food Nutrition Fact Explorer, or the Fast Food Finder.

Take a quick quiz. Kids can test their "heart smarts" and nutrition IQs by taking the Healthy Fridge Quiz.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor in Chief
Copyright © Education World

 


Last updated 03/02/2012

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