Being creative and finding synergistic opportunities were the keys to bringing nutrition education into three busy classrooms. Currently, there are no state requirements for nutrition education in elementary schools, thus it often lacks dedicated time and must compete with other academic content areas. Three Ohio schools found ways around these challenges, and through Team Nutrition mini-grants implemented fun and interactive nutrition education programs.
Liberty Elementary in Caledonia went to the South Pole to learn about healthy eating and its role in science exploration. Students participated in lesson plans from Arianna’s South Pole Adventure but went one step further and really brought the nutrition messages to life for the students. The grant coordinator’s niece was stationed at McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and she used this opportunity for students to talk to a real scientist living at the South Pole. The students were able to learn about how the food makes its way to the scientists as well as what scientists eat at the bottom of the world. The scientists told students about how important nutrition and physical activity is for everyone, but especially for people living in harsh, isolated conditions. Being able to contact a real scientist in Antarctica and see photos of food transported by skied airplane enhanced students’ learning and heightened their excitement. Arianna’s Nutrition Expedition is part of the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.
Coolville Elementary worked with Live Healthy Appalachia, a non-profit community organization, for their nutrition education. The objective of the program was for students to try a greater variety of foods and food preparations. The grant coordinator taught 28 weekly nutrition lessons to second graders from the Food is Elementary curriculum, a program designed to teach both nutrition and basic cooking skills to children. These lucky students benefited from an evidence-based curriculum that included science, math, social studies, and cultural studies into a fun, hands-on class. The students learned how to make Three Sisters’ Casserole, a recipe based on crops that came from the Native American farming technique of growing squash, beans, and corn together. Students loved this dish so much that they begged the cafeteria staff to add it to the school’s menu. Other favorite recipes included tofu stir fry, frijoles and tortillas, and a fruit tart. It’s no wonder that the students’ pre- and post-tests showed an increase in knowledge regarding whole grains, vitamins, healthy fats, and MyPlate.
Fifth grade students at Washington Elementary in Findlay took their nutrition class out into the real world. The objective of this program was to improve students’ decision-making skills. Navigating a supermarket can be difficult, so their local grocery store hosted a field trip in order for students to learn how to locate healthy foods. The students found the ingredients necessary to make a healthy snack, and each student chose a fresh fruit or vegetable. The students worked together to make healthy fruit smoothies and a high fiber trail mix when they returned to school.
Ideas for bringing nutrition education into your classroom:
- Use nutrition content in English Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science assignments.
- Look for existing classroom opportunities to include nutrition messaging.
- Partner with community experts.