Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Arianna's Nutrition Expedition

I'm working on a nutrition unit with my fifth graders. My pre-testing showed that with a few exceptions, my students do not already know the information I plan to teach. The students who did score 15/20 points on the pretest had been playing around on my SchoolNotes page over the weekend and had already tried out many of the resources. I found it encouraging that students are voluntarily using the resources on my site even before I introduce them.

I started the unit by setting up a journal in Moodle in which students told me what they knew and wanted to know about nutrition. Next, they took a pre-test in Moodle. I adapted it from the pre-test provided in Arianna's Nutrition Expedition, a nutrition unit available online from the National Dairy Council. In the past, I've shied away from teaching materials from groups with a vested interest, but these resources are excellent, not merely an advertising venue for the council.

As they finished the pretest, they played the Blast Off! game I mentioned here to expose them to the ideas and information they will be learning. Next, we began using the lessons in Arianna's Nutrition Expedition. I found the lessons very age-appropriate. They held my students' interest and engaged them in thinking about the topics being taught. For example, after an adventure story that taught about the different food groups in the food pyramid, the students completed a worksheet in which they had to identify which foods were placed in the wrong groups. I heard students having good discussions with each other as they tried to figure out which foods were misplaced. After that, they responded to journal questions.

The final activity was to go to the lab and play the first of four online computer games that are part of the unit. We played Quintricious! First students had to use colored eye droppers to label each food to indicate the food group to which it belonged. Each pair of students were stumped by a few foods. Peanut butter was the trickiest overall-- many pairs of students had to try it in all of the wrong groups before figuring out it went in the meat group. This gave us a natural lead-in to helping them rename the group to the Meats, Beans and Nuts group. This will become clearer after we start discussing the nutrient basis for assigning foods to groups.

When the foods were all assigned to the correct group, the game took the students through three levels of a Tetris-style game where they matched up foods from the same food group. This part of the game was well-scaffolded. In level one, all the foods retained the color coding the students had given them. By level three, there were no clues as to what food group each food belongs.

I hope the worksheets and games continue to cause spontaneous, focused discussions occur. I tend to shy away from science worksheets in general because they tend to require such low level thinking, but these are doing just what they should. If you teach fourth or fifth grade and have a nutrition unit at your grade level, I hope you find these resources useful.