To explore ways in which food provides energy and materials for our bodies.
In the elementary grades, particularly the lower-elementary level, children know that there are different foods–some "good" and some "bad." They also seem to understand that a person's height and size can depend on what he/she eats. In this investigation, students will use online resources to help them explore how food can affect their overall health.
As you go through this lesson, you also should be aware that younger elementary students often believe that the contents of the body are what they have seen being put into or coming out of it. They also know that food is related to growing and being strong and healthy, but they are not aware of the physiological mechanisms. You should make it clear that food is a source of matter for growth, not a requirement for growth.
This lesson is the second of a Science NetLinks three part series. It works in conjunction with Nutrition 1: Food and the Digestive System, a lesson that focuses on the necessity of nutrients, and Nutrition 3: Got Broccoli?, the final lesson that encapsulates what students have learned about nutrition.
This lesson addresses only the first part of the benchmark. Additional activities that focus on how, as people grow up, the amounts and kinds of food and exercise needed by the body may change, will be necessary for students to gain a full understanding of this benchmark.
Note: You should structure this activity in a way that matches the reading levels of your students. Students could read the article on their own, or you could read it aloud to a class.
Next, students should use their esheet to study the eating guide, Eat the Five Food Group Way. This guide not only shows the amount of fruits and vegetables that should be consumed, but the number of servings of dairy products, meat/poultry/fish, and breads/grains. Keeping in mind these figures, ask students the questions from your teacher sheet.
After discussing the guide, talk about how kids as a whole could go about eating the recommended number of servings from the five major food groups. Ask students why it is important to eat the right foods. Have a discussion with them about their various views.
If time allows, you may wish to extend this activity by having students survey their classmates about typical snack choices. This survey can be done in the class, grade, or school-wide.
Have students to go to the Nutrition Café's Nutrition Sleuth game. This game can provide students with a good introduction to how vitamins and minerals are essential to keep everything working well.
Since there are seven different cases students can attempt to solve, you can break up students into teams and have each team tackle a case. Students should write down what they learn about the nutrients on the Good Food, Good Health student sheet.
Once the teams have solved the cases, have them report to the class what they learned. You might want to create a table for the whole class, using a large sheet of paper. List each of the cases included in the Nutrition Sleuth game and then write down the results of the students’ investigations by each case.
After the class has finished this exercise, ask students the questions from the teacher sheet. After completing this exercise, discuss the students’ answers with them.
To build on the concepts that vitamins and minerals are essential to keep everything in our bodies working well, provide students with the Take the 5 A Day Challenge chart. Ask students to follow the directions on the page and record the fruits and vegetables they ate the day before. Once students have recorded the fruits and vegetables, discuss the chart with your students and ask them these questions:
- Did you manage to eat five fruits and vegetables a day?
- If not, what can you do to reach the goal of eating five fruits and vegetables a day?
- If you did manage to eat five fruits and vegetables a day, do you think that has a positive or negative impact on your health?
- Why do you think it is important to eat five fruits and vegetables a day?
(Answers may vary. Encourage your students to explain their answers.)
Once you have discussed the chart with them, ask students to think about the number of servings of each of the food groups they had the day before. You might want to create a chart and write down the number of servings per student for each of the food groups. Then, have students determine the average number of servings the class ate. Compare those numbers to the national averages for each of the food groups. Be sure to exclude French fries and potato chips from the vegetable group.
Discuss with students how they might increase the number of servings of food from the five food groups they eat in a day and the importance of eating a balanced diet in order to get the vitamins and nutrients they need to keep their bodies working well.
A good way to assess students’ understanding of this material is to have them create a MyPlate poster themselves, based on the new MyPlate nutrition guide developed by the U.S. government, and use this poster to inform and encourage other students to eat the recommended servings from the five food groups.
To have students create the MyPlate, divide them into five different teams, each one concentrating on a particular food group. But, instead of just listing the five food groups and the number of servings that should be eaten from each, students also should include the types of food found in the food groups and the types of nutrients that can be obtained by eating those foods. They should state why the nutrients are important for helping to keep their bodies working well. Students also could illustrate the plate with pictures of the body parts for which these foods are particularly good. Students can follow the directions on the MyPlate Poster student sheet to help them with this activity.
To make the MyPlate itself, students can use a standard size poster board. The plate will have to be fairly large so that it can include all the information. Each of the pieces of the plate can be set up in the following way:
- Name of Food Group
- Recommended Number of Servings
- Types of Food Found in Food Group
- Benefits to Body
If possible, the poster can then be displayed in the school cafeteria to serve as a reminder to all the students in the school to eat the recommended daily servings of the five food groups.
Visit Nutrition 3: Got Broccoli?, the final lesson in this Science NetLinks series. Here, students analyze food advertisements and then create one of their own to demonstrate what they have learned about nutrients and good food choices.
Have students play Grab a Grape from the Nutrition Café. Here, students select from categories such as Food & Sports, Bone Building, Weight Control, and Body Building to learn more about the nutrients in foods and what they can do for the body.