Incorporating Healthy Eating Habits into PBL

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Guest blog by Collin Wallace

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Many kids throughout the nation are struggling with the challenges of obesity and diabetes.  In fact, 17% of children of all ages are obese, and in children ages 10-17 the statistic rises to over 25% in all but three states.  Also, more than 7% of teenagers (2 million) are estimated to be pre-diabetic with symptoms of high blood pressure and high blood glucose levels.  What is the cause of this nationwide problem?  One answer is processed food.  Many families have transitioned from the traditional sit-down home cooked meal to the grab and go lifestyle, which leads to the consumption of packaged and processed foods. 

Celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, realizes that the world is struggling with obesity and diabetes and has launched a “Food Revolution” to change this.  Jamie’s recipes focus on going back to the basics of cooking and making it fun, but yet very cost effective.  By incorporating hands on cooking, or activities on finding out what you are really eating into PBL, we can focus on questions like, “Why is it important to eat healthy?” or “How can I eat healthier?”

Healthy eating projects lead to active, hands-on activities. As part of their healthy eating project on “What healthy snacks can we make by ourselves?” the k-2 classroom at Fairmount Boys and Girls club recently played a game of healthy eating musical chairs.  As the music played, four students circled a cluster of desks covered with packaged snacks.  When the music stopped, each student selected a snack and brought it back to his or her group.  Students then discussed and determined if their snack was healthy or not healthy, and estimated its cost.  If the team got either of those answers right, they got a point.  The team with the most points at the end was declared the winner!

This activity made the groups analyze the content of their favorite snacks, including the sodium, sugar, calories.  The teams then decided whether the levels of these additives were too high or at a healthy level.  This activity also incorporated elements of exercise:   when going around the circle the kids were sometimes asked to hop on one foot, hop on two feet, or skip.  Lastly, by putting the kids in groups it gave them a chance to work together to come up with answers to the questions and find out if their snack was healthy or not.

The kids really enjoyed this activity.  This activity incorporated music, exercise, team work, and healthy information for an all around engaging activity.  By teaching kids to analyze which of their everyday snacks are healthy, the program empowers students to make better decisions around their eating habits.

Once the activity is finished, it is always beneficial to debrief with the kids about what they learned, what their favorite part of the activity was, and what would they want to do next time as an activity.  For potential hands on cooking activities for older kids, here are some basic recipes from Jamie Oliver’s site!

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