By Evelyn Vazquez, St. Nicks Alliance’s Dep. Dir. Elementary School Programs
For the last three months elementary youth at our after school sites have been learning the language, history and science of food. Yes, food! Via the Favorite Foods Theme, these young learners have had the opportunity to learn all about food: how it’s grown, what’s in their favorite foods and what’s healthy.The theme was separated into three monthly cycles: Fun with Food, Eating Healthy Food, and Growing Healthy Foods. Each month’s focus was taught through engaging hands-on literacy and S.T.E.M. lessons.
The first month brought, Fun with Food. Kids read classics such as Strega Nona, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. They also read the book Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast in which the characters have an epic race to get to the last drop of syrup. During S.T.E.M. activities the children learned about food chemistry by making ice cream, butter, and lemon fizzy soda. They also enjoyed making lemon volcanoes — and who wouldn’t— by using lemons, baking soda, and dish soap.
The Eating Healthy Food students learned about the food pyramid and nutrients through reading (respectively) Show Down at the Food Pyramid and Good Enough to Eat: A Kid’s Guide to Foods and Nutrients. Children practiced the scientific method in several S.T.E.M. activities that gave them an opportunity to take a closer look at what’s really in their food. For instance they counted how many tablespoons of sugar in their favorite snacks and measured vitamin C levels in juices and sports drinks. They also conducted an experiment using one of their favorite snacks/chips. They compared the amount of oil chips have by comparing grease spots of regular and baked chips.
The final month, Growing Healthy Food, showed kids how food is grown and taught them about ecosystems and different parts of plants. In reading the book How Did That Get in My Lunchbox, they learned how bread, apple juice, and cheese are made. Another book, Up Down and Around teaches about different types of vegetables and how they are grown. The S.T.E.M. activities in this month delivered opportunities to learn how important bugs are in the food they eat and their roles as decomposers in which they help break down dead organic material and turn them into nutrients for the soil. Students will study the bugs up close by touching them and then drawing them or making one out of clay. The theme will conclude with all kids learning about the different parts of plants and the plant life cycle by planting their own bean or parsley plant.