On Tuesday, Mary Rodavich and I were able to give our 90-minute nutrition lesson to a group of 13 4th graders from The Shack Neighborhood House. The day before and the morning of the activity, we set up the chairs, pre-chopped some of the food, and set up the supplies we’d need for the activity. The theme for this nutrition lesson was healthy snacking. We began the morning by introducing ourselves, telling them we’d be making a few fun recipes, and also learning about what it means to snack healthy. After going over MyPlate, the kids were able to give an example of a snack from each section of the MyPlate. Then I went over the acronym “S.N.A.C.K.S.” with the kids.
“Not in front of the TV” received gasps from the audience, and we had the kids figure out why that might not be a good idea. It has something to do with portion control. If you’re zoned out in front of the TV, you may find yourself not paying attention to what you’re eating, or how much you’re eating. And snacks are supposed to be smaller portions than a meal, because you want to still be hungry for dinner!
We then told the kids we’d be making a snack from the vegetable food group– homemade tomato salsa. Several of the kids got to wash their hands, and volunteer to come up front and help chop the tomatoes and green peppers, measure out the lime juice, and put the cilantro, garlic, and jalapeno peppers into the bowl to be mixed.
When I held up the green onions, the kids thought it was asparagus! So I passed some green onions around, as well as the bunch of cilantro so the kids could smell and feel the herbs.
When the salsa had finished, we moved on to making tortilla chips from wheat tortillas. Each 4th grader got to cut up their tortilla into triangles, spray both sides with cooking spray, and sprinkle on salt, pepper, and chili powder.
Then while the tortilla chips were baking, the kids were divided into 3 teams and got to play “Guess That Fruit or Vegetable.” I had bought 12 different fruits and vegetables (zucchini, cucumber, orange, parsnip, turnip, celery, bell pepper, banana, pear, mango, cabbage). We put each item into a paper bag, taped it up, put a #1-12 on it, and cut out a small hole in the back of the bag. Teams were instructed to send 1 team member at a time to choose a bag, and by touching only, write down their guess of what fruit or vegetable was inside.
The kids learned about new fruits and vegetables, and had fun competing for first place. Some of the items stumped the kids (parsnips feel like a large carrot, after all!), but I was impressed that they could tell what a mango was just by feeling it. And guessing “squash” for zucchini is technically correct.
Finally, after the lesson & activity, the kids were able to line up at a station and make their own fruit & cheese kabobs on skewers. We encouraged the kids to add a variety of the fruits to their skewers, but the kids were huge fans of the purple grapes, strawberries, and cheddar cheese especially.
The kids also got to try their tortilla chips and salsa at this point, and were able to take home containers of extra salsa, as well as a nutritional brochure containing the information we covered (S.N.A.C.K.S.) and recipes for the salsa and chips.
As the 90 minutes was coming to a close, I asked the kids what food groups we had eaten as snacks today. The kids were able to tell Mary and I that the salsa was a vegetable, the whole wheat tortilla chips were a grain, and the kabobs were in the dairy (cheddar and mozzarella cheese) and fruit food groups. Hopefully the kids will take away the message that its important to snack and eat from a variety of food groups, and not all just from the grains or fats & oils food group (cookies, granola bars, popcorn, pizza rolls, potato chips, donuts, crackers, etc).
This was a fun activity to design and implement, and I hope that in the future I will continue to have opportunities to teach kids to get excited about fruits and vegetables and try new things!