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Nutrition on the Net:
Healthful Activities for
Every Grade

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If your students think nutrition is a dull topic, they haven't gotten the full story on food from the resources of the Internet. Many wonderful sites explain the benefits of eating well, the power of the food guide pyramid, and the history of food. Included: Ten classroom activities for use across the grades!

How do you like to eat an Oreo cookie? Do you bite into it? Break it apart before eating it? Insert the whole cookie into your mouth at once? Those are the questions Jennifer Wagner, a computer coordinator at Crossroads Christian School in Corona, California, asked students via an Internet project. She designed the activity to illustrate the process of developing an online project for her students, and the interesting topic drew a huge response from other educators and their classes.

"We were attempting to spark an interest in [our] science fair again," Wagner told Education World. "As the coordinator of the fair, I wanted to make a mock project that the students could see and get ideas from. Choosing the topic was sheer humor. I wanted a question on my board that would stand out, and I wanted to do an experiment that would be fun for all participants. Since I enjoy the Internet, I wanted to see if it would be possible to gather all the information from the Internet only. I was overwhelmed with the response."

OREOS AND THE INTERNET GIVE SCIENCE FAIR NEW LIFE

The results of Wagner's project can be viewed on the school's Online Oreo Project page -- 57 percent of students responding bite an Oreo first.

"The response from the participating schools was tremendous," said Wagner. Since that first project, Wagner has followed up with Oreo Project 2001 (Do you dunk your Oreos in milk?) and Oreo Project 2002 (How many Oreos can you stack?), Oreo Project 2003 (Is "Double Stuff" really worth the stuff?), and Oreo Project 2004 (Is the weight in "Double Stuff" really doubled?).

See what Jennifer Wagner has in store for teachers this year on her projects page.

NUTRITIONAL NUGGETS FROM THE NET

Many students think of health-related topics as "boring," but the addition of Internet resources can spice up nutrition lessons in a big way! Check out these ideas for making more fun out of food and fitness.

Playing it safe. One often-overlooked key to healthful eating is safe handling of food. Many students are not aware that the ways they wash and prepare their food can be as important as what they choose to eat -- and that improper handling of food can lead to illness. Young students will enjoy the Food Safety Coloring Book and engaging in the Food Safety Quiz online.

Food in space. Sound nutrition is especially important for astronauts. Their work requires concentration and endurance. How do the people who prepare spacecraft for flight decide what food the passengers will need? How will they prepare and serve the food? Food for Space Flight (and this Food for Space Flight Activity answers those questions and more. Another NASA resource, Space Food and Nutrition, offers an educator's guide with related science and math activities for grades K-8. Invite your students to bring in a food that the crew on a space shuttle might enjoy -- such as nuts or dried apples -- and dish up a space food smorgasbord!

Evolution of food. Few activities could make your students hungrier than a tour of The Food Timeline. This Web site posts a timeline of when common foods emerged. Each food's name is a clickable link to historical information about its development. When did your students' favorite foods appear? They can research these delights and create a description to add to a classroom food timeline. Have students detail when the foods became popular and how they were prepared. They can compare their findings to the present-day forms we know.

Feeling fit. The International Food Information Council has created 10 Tips to Healthy Eating and Physical Activity For You for kids aged nine to 15. These ten tips involve not only healthful eating habits but also physical fitness. Ask students to discuss their own typical behaviors and decide which ones are healthful. Then have them illustrate one of the tips and share their artwork with their peers.

Facing facts about fast food. Although people hate to admit it, almost everyone enjoys some type of fast food. What we may not realize is just how unhealthful some of those foods are. Students may be surprised to learn that "fast" food can also mean fatty food. Your students can look up nutrition facts about foods from well-known restaurants at Fast Food Facts or the Fast Food Nutrition Fact Explorer. Seeing is believing! This exploration might actually inspire and challenge your students to look for healthful alternatives to the foods they eat at fast food places.

Diet right. Few people believe that they have achieved their perfect size and shape, but Are You Fit? can help students aged 12 to 19 determine how fit they really are. When they have finished with the online evaluation, students may study the site's Recommended Diet to see how they can sensibly manipulate their diets to eliminate pounds, add bulk for athletics, or maintain their desired weight. The detailed diet plans promote healthful eating. Your students can compare these plans to diets they find online and in magazines and evaluate their practicality and safety. [Note: The Web sites that are part of this activity were not available upon our last check of them, 02/08/08.]

Experimenting with food. While some may experiment in the kitchen, your students can experiment with kitchen materials and enjoy science! In the Lab, a portion of Le Casa De Comida: The House of Food, includes such great investigations as Peeling a Raw Egg and Turn Milk into Plastic. With a few simple ingredients, your students can follow the instructions of these young Webmasters from the ThinkQuest competition and find out how freaky food can be!

Food pyramid. If you are looking for an online representation of the Food Guide Pyramid, look no further! At this site, from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), you will find links to student resources, animated feature, teaching materials, and much more.

Food for the mind. Get your students online, learning about nutrition and loving it, with the Nutrition Caf! This imaginative site from Pacific Science Center and the Washington State Dairy Council is a real gem. Students may choose from three interactive games that allow them to display their knowledge of the food pyramid, nutrients, and meal planning in an enjoyable way. After they play the online nutrition games, have students form groups and invent classroom games to share. They should write questions and answers and provide a game board or other articles that will be used.

ADDITIONAL SITES OF INTEREST

Educational Resources in Health, Nutrition, and Personal Planning
The Community Learning Network provides a list of resources that will help you integrate the Internet into nutritional studies. Visitors can find curricular resources, instructional materials, and theme pages that deal with health, food, and fitness.

Ask ERIC Lesson Plans: Health Education: Nutrition
Experienced educators who use online lessons know the wealth of materials that the ERIC database offers. Nutrition is one topic you won't want to miss! Largely aimed at the lower grades, these lessons address the balanced meal, the food guide pyramid, healthful snacks, and more.

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Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2010 Education World

Originally published 03/13/2000
Last updated 01/22/2010