Where Does Our Food Come From? Nutrition In First Grade

When I taught 1st grade, my school used the Wonders reading curriculum. This post is all about some ideas we used for Unit 3, Week 5 and the essential question “How do we get our food?”

Make sure to scroll down to the bottom for a fun freebie!
Find my Essential Questions on TPT

The stories focused on how milk gets from the cow to our morning cereal bowls and how foods we eat everyday are made. The interactive read aloud is the Little Red Hen (except they say she’s collecting corn – not sure why they changed it from the traditional story of wheat). The paired selection focuses on nutrition and the food groups.

During my science block, I tied in more nutrition lessons to help students understand the concept. We focused on this health standard from our Hawaii Content and Performance Standards: HE.1.3 Describe the benefits associated with a healthy diet.

I love using OCDE Project GLAD (R) strategies in my classroom, so I started our learning with songs and chants. I wrote a Bugaloo chant and taught it to my students. I write mine on chart paper and alternate the color of marker I use. The title is one color, the chorus another, stanza 1 another color, and stanza 2 is the last color. This helps students see the structure of the poem. Older students don’t need this color coding scaffold anymore. I teach the poem line by line, then we go through and identify “clunkers”. Those are words students either cannot read or do not know what they mean. I highlight the clunkers right on the chart paper and then teach the word by giving a definition, break it into chunks and show how to read it, and either draw a little sketch next to it, or create a little motion students can do the next time we read the poem that will remind them of the meaning. On the student copy, they draw sketches in the box of what they learned from the chant. It helps them process the new information.

I also use this free Nutrition Education poster from the Kokua Hawaii Foundation.

The next thing we did was a Healthy/Unhealthy photo sort. I passed out the photos to the students and had them turn to a neighbor to read the word and discuss if they had a healthy or unhealthy food. Then, one at a time, students came up to the chart and taped their food under the corresponding heading. A few of the foods were tricky (on purpose), like the fruit juice. Students thought it should be listed under healthy since it’s made from fruit. But then I told them how most commercial fruit juice from the store contains too much sugar, therefore making it unhealthy. Some of these foods might be controversial, like milk and dairy. Please use your judgement and research when approaching any foods. That's why I didn't create an answer key - this activity was a great way for my students to discuss what their family eats without judgement and we were able to confirm ideas through the text in our reading curriculum.

We ended the lesson with an exit slip (called a Learning Log in the OCDE Project GLAD (R) model). On the left side, students wrote and sketched one of the unhealthy foods and wrote why it’s considered unhealthy. On the right side, students wrote and sketched one of the healthy foods that they like and why they like it. Some of the sentence frames I had the kids use were:
________ is an unhealthy food because it has too much ___________.

A healthy food I like to eat is ________. It is healthy because ___________.
In a learning log, the text (or book) side is where students write about what they learned from the text. On the you (or smiley face) side, they make connections to what they learned. 

We also did an individual food sort freebie from True Life I’m a Teacher.

Next, we watched the BrainPOP Jr. video on the Food Groups. Using a plain paper plate, students drew a line down the middle, to divide the plate in half. They then drew lines to make the larger vegetable and grains sections and smaller fruits and proteins section. After we watched about each food group in the video, I paused and they drew foods on their plates. Susan Jones’ nutrition unit on TpT has a worksheet that would work well for this activity, too.

The last thing we did was to make our own food! I asked parents to send in 1 quart of heavy cream (a 1/2 cup each for 4 groups of 5 kids), oranges, whole grain crackers, and plastic knives. From home, I brought my KitchenAid mixer with the citrus juicer attachment and 4 mason jars with lids.

First we made butter. I poured a 1/2 cup of heavy cream into each mason jar, filling the jar up halfway. We added a spring of rosemary to each jar from our school garden. I screwed on the lids. Students got into groups of five and sat in a circle. I set a timer for 1 minute and one student in each group shook the jar. When the timer went off, they handed it to the person to the left of them (reinforcing “clockwise”), who then shook the jar for a minute. Each group went around the circle twice, continuously shaking the jar.

After their butter turned, I dumped out the buttermilk (my baker mother-in-law would be horrified!), then gave the kids a plate of crackers and a plastic knife for spreading their butter. We talked about how hard it was to shake up their butter, but also how this was healthier since we didn’t add any salt or sugar that is unhealthy for us. And how hard work pays off (like in the Little Red Hen) because now we have a delicious snack. 

Next we made fresh squeezed orange juice. I cut the oranges in half and the students got to press half of an orange onto the citrus juicer as it spun around. This is definitely easier to use than a hand press or handheld juicer. They each got about a 1/4 cup of juice, since we talked about how even though we didn’t add any sugar to our juice, that fruit juice has natural sugars and we don’t want to drink too much; this is only a treat. The kids had fun using the juicer.

The last thing we did was a lesson idea from my colleague Mel. We read the story Gregory the Terrible Eater (click here to see the book on Amazon). Then students wrote on writing paper about healthy and unhealthy foods. You could have them write a five sentence paragraph (maybe using the 4-Square method to plan it out) or sentence frames with a word bank. Then I gave them cut outs of fruits and veggie clipart from EduClips and they glued torn paper on top to create a collage. We added a little crayon-colored image of Gregory as a finishing touch (my colleague drew his outline). They came out beautiful!
My colleague Mel's pineapple example

This was one of the more memorable weeks for the kids due to all the fun extra lessons I added into our core curriculum. Grab my freebie with the Healthy Foods Sort (paper or digital), exit slip, and Nutrition Bugaloo!

How do you teach about nutrition in your classroom?

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