BEFORE STUDENTS ARRIVE
Make handouts as described above. To prepare wild cards: cut with a scissor from side to side and fold so text is inside. Copy wild cards onto colorful paper if desired. Give each student one card from 1-9 and one card from 10-18.
As an introduction, discuss some of the following questions.
All organisms must have food for energy. Humans all over the planet on every continent eat food. Some of us have more choices than others about what and how much to eat. In the United States, one problem is that people are eating in ways that are not healthy.
- What evidence do you have that how we eat is a problem?
Students may mention widespread obesity and epidemic of chronic diseases associated with obesity like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer. Changing our habits is a challenge.
We may be very particular about what we choose to eat. Our culture, our religion, our traditions may define what foods are most desirable and nutritious. In some cultures, insects, including caterpillars, grasshoppers, crickets are considered a delicacy.
Another difference between groups of people is how food is produced and the impact food production, in all its stages, has on the environment.
- Our food choices have the potential to impact the environment. What examples of this can you share?
Some examples of how food production uses excessive amounts of fuel:
- farming with heavy machinery, deep tilling
- using fertilizers and pesticides
- growing animals in concentrated conditions
- feeding livestock grain, rather than allowing them to eat grass.
- What is the relationship between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change?
Burning fossil fuels produces massive amount of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere contributes to climate change.
- What are some negative health effects of industrial farming?
Standard industrial farming pollutes the environment with fertilizers and pesticides and ultimately our bodies when we consume the food and drink the water.
As you know chemicals are concentrated in the bodies of organisms that are further along the food chain.
- Where do humans fit into the chain? What does our position at the top of the food chain mean about our exposure to chemicals?
When we eat animals environmental toxins are concentrated in their flesh. When we eat animals that eat animals that eat animals, this is a greater problem. Tuna and some other predatory fish have high concentrations of mercury in their flesh.
- What does a diet closer to the bottom of the food chain look like?
Eating more fruits, vegetables and grains, that is, a plant-based diet, instead of meat.
- What are some examples of alternative methods of producing food and feeding ourselves?
Organic food is grown without pesticides and fertilizers by recycling vegetable matter back into the soil to replenish it. When we consume organic food and food that is locally produced we minimize the impact on the environment (mitigation.) We can adapt to having less fossil fuels in the future by making sure that we can buy food locally. Food sources near us may become increasingly desirable as fuel becomes scarcer and more expensive. As consumers our choices affect the future of our health and our planet.
Large group brainstorm: What are your (least) favorite foods? Make a list. Why don’t you like these foods?
Smaller group collaborative activity: Divide students into groups of three to six. The design challenge can be stated like this:
“Make up your favorite meal. Write the components on your dinner plate.”
(Start with Dinner Plate Handout without Food Groups shown.)
**Note: It should be a meal you would want to eat regularly. If not every day, several times a week. Don’t list your special or treat foods that you would have only once in a while.
Design Challenge Part I: Nutrition
What fuel and building blocks do our bodies need? What don’t we need?
Handout the Dinner plate with Food Groups and the Scorecard. Students will recreate or re-design their meal on the new plate using the information on the scorecard to guide them. Direct students to:
- Use the Nutrition checklist to evaluate the components of your chosen meal.
- Use the scorecard to evaluate the nutritional quality of your desired meal.
- Make changes as suggested by the checklist. Re-score.
- Discuss the changes made and your decision-making process with your group members.
Design Challenge Part II: Energy and Agriculture
How do foods compare in terms of energy efficiency? How willing are you to make changes to your diet based on that information?
Handout the Energy (and Agriculture) Chart. Direct students to:
- Use the chart showing food and the ratios of energy input to energy output to evaluate your food choices.
- Write the relative energy input/output for each of your food choices on your scorecard (and on your plate if you wish.)
- Choose foods with a lower input to output ratio if you wish. Re-score.
- Discuss the numbers and your decision-making process with group members.
Design Challenge Part III: Affordability
How can we save money on high-quality nutritious food? Direct students to:
- Use the checklist on the scorecard for affordability to evaluate your everyday behavior around meal planning, food shopping and preparation.
- Score your existing behavior.
- Make note of changes you feel you would like to make. Re-score
- Discuss the results and the process with group members.
Play the Wild Cards
The Wild Cards should be dealt to each table. Direct students to:
- Study the wild cards you are dealt.
- Trade wild cards with your group members, if desired.
- Use them to adjust your meal score.
- Compute your total score
Large Group Share
Each group can select one or two members to present their meal design process and results to the large group. “Winners” can be selected in each category and/or for the meal that gets the most votes for palatability. The relationship between “good” scores in the categories and what the most kids want to eat the most can be highly informative.
Engage students in a discussion on this question: What does it take to change behavior around food choices in favor of longer term goals like health, limiting environmental impact and saving money?