|Grade span:||9 to 12|
|Duration:||6-8 weeks for this lesson (45-60 minutes weekly); length variable if extensions used.|
Description:This sample lesson is one example of how you can implement the practice of Investigating Science Through Inquiry. In this lesson, students work with the US Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid recommendations, forming questions, and investigating whether the food offered at their school meets the guidelines. The lesson provides experience in all aspects of the inquiry process.
- Practice scientific inquiry-question, hypothesize, observe, record, analyze, communicate results, and plan further investigations.
- Measure using scientific tools, such as scales and various measuring devices.
- Keep journals or records of scientific investigations.
- Apply mathematical concepts of measurement.
- Communicate results.
- Compare results from multiple groups and draw conclusions.
- USDA Food Pyramid (PDF) (PDF)
- My Pyramid Data sheet (PDF) (PDF)
- School/District School Breakfast and Lunch Menus
- Snacks from school vending machines
- Data/statistics about health and weight for local area
- Food scales
- Measuring cups
- Clear rulers and/or plastic tape measurers (centimeter)
- Journals or learning logs
In this lesson students assess the availability of food provided by the school to provide support for students eating healthy. This is a good lesson to emphasize research skills. Instructors who are not already familiar with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid should spend some time reviewing it. (One way to do so would be by reviewing the handouts for this example lesson.)
Here are some specific steps to take as you are preparing for this activity:
- Inform School Cafeteria Staff and/or school/district nutritionist of planned actives.
- Obtain current research and popular press articles about nutrition, the impact of food intake on health and weight, and foods/ingredients recommended for health (reasons provided should vary).
- Develop pointers to give to each team on how to develop research questions.
- Organize materials in team folders (one for each team). Folders should include learning logs, calculators, scales metric conversion charts, USDA Pyramid handout, and any other materials that will be useful. (link to My Pyramid). Establish a location and system for storing the folders.
- Consider connections! As this topic is relevant to the larger community Building a Pyramid can also be used for community group or family science nights.
Students should be reminded that this research and the findings created should not be used for judgment or criticism of peers.
What to Do:
Engage Introduce the study of food and exercise by having students review newspaper and magazine articles related to health, weight, and wellness. Ask if they or their peers consider the nutritional value of what they eat or select food based on the calories or ingredients. Consider using a KWL chart to record what students know about the food pyramid and food group quantities.
Explore Create two or more teams, with these duties for students. (Roles may be assigned, or may be chosen by students within the group.)The Materials Gatherer brings materials and folders to the group and returns the materials to the designated central location at the end of each session. The Chief Investigator directs the investigation and coordinates the development of the research questions and hypotheses. Determination is made for procedure and methods to be used for collecting information from/on:
- School/District Food Services
- The establishment and purpose of the Food Pyramid
- Recommended daily allowances
- Types of food available in school vending machines and snack bars
- Data on % of students that participate in student lunch program
The Chief Investigator, with appropriate guidance from the teacher and in concert with his or her group, should frame the questions and hypotheses that the research will explore.
The Recorder filters and records the data collected weekly. (link to data sheet).
The Reporter is responsible for generating an output of all findings and facilitating the group presentation on the findings.
Explain Students will complete their data charts and respond to the research questions identified at the start of the research. Each team will report their results. Instructors may consider having students use a large chart or a computer spreadsheet (link to spreadsheet) to record and graph class data.
After the data on the questions has been collected (and reported out by the reporter), have students compare their team's data with data from other teams. Discuss the results and have students write conclusion. You might ask them whether their research answers such questions as, "to what extent does our school's food program align with the recommendations of the USDA Pyramid?"
Extension Activities:There are many ideas for extensions for this activity.
A Technology extension: Extend the study to include an Internet search to obtain, assess, and compare school menus from different regions in the country. Teams can work together and present their findings to the whole group.
An analysis and representation extension: Have students create a pyramid graphic that represents the percentage of school food offerings by Pyramid food categories.
A historical extension: Have students investigate past versions of the Pyramid recommendations and analyze current school food offerings against the previous recommendations, then record and report changes. Students might consider the question, "Why has the USDA Food Pyramid changed?"
Evaluate (Outcomes to look for):
- Students' written work, including learning logs with completed data tables and charts, shows signs of increased content understanding and engagement with the inquiry process.
- Students engaged in the activity?
- Students are collecting data objectively and accurately.
- Students are they recording data with the proper units (for instance, ounces, serving size).
- Students are they comparing and contrasting their data with the class data and completing the data chart accurately.
- Students are they assuming responsibility, performing their assigned roles and tasks.
- Students are working together collaboratively.
Click this link to see additional learning goals, grade-level benchmarks, and standards covered in this lesson.
Learn more about the 5Es.