Teach Fruits and Vegetables Classification with Tops & Bottoms: A Caldecott Honor Book

I love using my favorite children’s book, Tops and Bottoms, to review fruits and vegetables classification.

It is a fable of a lazy bear and the hare who tricks him into giving up his harvest every year.  Hare tells Bear that he will farm the land, do all of the work, and split the harvest “right down the middle” with Bear getting the tops of plants and Hare getting the bottoms.

I have the students guess what the hare would plant. In other words, what vegetables grow underground? The students list different kinds of roots and tubers.

The book continues with Bear being angry and demanding the bottoms (Hare plants flowers, leaves, and stems) and the next year demanding the whole plant (Hare plants seeds and fruits).

I used to borrow this from the library every year, but now I own it on Kindle.  I downloaded the Kindle for Mac app and now I can project it for all students to see.  The pictures are great and the students really enjoy the book, even though it is for children much younger than them.

Alternatives to the USDA SuperTracker Program for Family and Consumer Sciences Teachers

USDA MyPlate greenAlthough I hope to not get too political, let’s just say I’m more than annoyed at the United States federal government shutdown.  Over the last week my students have been entering information into the SuperTracker website to analyze their daily eating habits.  Tuesday, when the students were to print their final report, the site was taken down.  This means my students have wasted at least two blocks of valuable class time.

MyFitness Pal is the nutrition tracking program that I use personally. I like it because I can enter information on my phone as well as online (handy for 1-to-1 Ipad schools). Instead of being based on food groups, like MyPlate, it is based on macro- and micronutrients.  This is handy for me because MyPlate “thinks” I am anemic and don’t eat enough fish even though I am a healthy, athletic, vegan.  Users can adjust their macronutrient percentages to fit their needs, as for a diabetic person who closely monitors carbohydrates.
The food selection is much better on MyFitness Pal than on MyPlate.  Users can enter their own information from favorite recipes and foods.  The information is shared with the whole community which means I can get the exact information for the exact food I’m using, such as Aldi generic brands.
MyFitness Pal also tracks exercise, which is an important component of healthy weight management. I can burn 1000+ calories in a two-hour practice- nearly half of the calories I would consume on a non-derby day.
MyPlate has good traits too.  It is very straightforward for my students to use.  Most of my students come to my class without a knowledge of macronutrients, so MyFitness Pal would be too advanced for them.  I also like how visual the program is.  After students enter an item a graph changes to track their levels of each food group. It’s a great program for beginners.
And, like it or not, MyPlate is the USDA standard for a healthy diet.  It is what textbooks follow, videos follow, and free classroom materials follow.  Simply said, it is just easier for teachers to use.

The project requirements have been adjusted, but my students and I are still upset with the wasted time.  One good thing has come from our debacle: We’ve had great conversations about the branches of the federal government. 😉

Eat This, Not That Posters

FriesThe documentary “Supersize Me” has been a popular film for FACS teachers to show their students.  Thankfully, however, it is out of date.  The film was released in 2004, nearly a decade ago.  Since then McDonald’s has ended super size portions.  They have also introduced what I consider to be several healthy entrees.

Our Eat This, Not That posters help my students learn to find the healthy options when eating at their favorite restaurants.

We start by watching this fast food segment of Eat This, Not That from the Today Show. Then, students are grouped into pairs and assigned a restaurant.  The students search online to find nutrition facts from the restaurant (which, contrary to Supersize Me, are quite easy to find). They create two posters: One with a healthy meal and one with an unhealthy meal.  They tally total calories, total grams of fat and sugar, and total milligrams of sodium.

It is a very eye-opening project for the students.  They are happy to find that some of their favorite foods make a healthful choice.  They are also surprised to find that some of their favorites have many more calories than they realized.

The project is especially impactful if students know how many calories are allowed for someone of their age, sex, and size.  They realized that many of the “Not That” meals made up more than half of their total calories for a day.

This is one of my favorite activities from our nutrition unit.  It helps remind students that a healthy diet is not an all-or-nothing choice.