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Be A Nutritional Entrepreneur

By Elaine Kilmer



Type of activity:

  • Hands-on
  • Group/cooperative learning
  • Community outreach/
    Off-site activity
  • Review and Reinforcement

Target audience:

  • Biology

Abstract:

Students research and define nutrition. Students choose a definition of nutrition or a nutritional theme around which they design a restaurant. This activity helps students answer the question "What is a nutritionally balanced meal?"

Background Information:

This project is cross-curricular involving not only science, but also art, drama, library research and home economics. It provides the "right brain thinkers" with an opportunity to succeed and shine in a science classroom!

In this project, the students look at the concept of nutrition and apply one definition to a restaurant of their own design. This project can accompany a unit on biochemical nutrients, digestion and nutrition, or can be used in a health class when covering nutrition and health.

This project requires only one day to properly introduce. I usually provide one additional class day for brainstorming within groups. Students finish the task on their own time. The students need about two weeks to work through their ideas and produce their products. For presentations, each group needs about 15-20 minutes. Depending on the class and group size, presentations could take a few days.


Lesson/Activity:

This activity asks the students to define nutrition, not an easy task in a society plagued by a plethora of eating problems and "wacky" diets. Working in groups of three or four (variable, and your choice), student groups research proper ways to assess nutrition. Some sources that offer help include the American Heart Association, The Diabetes Foundation, general cook books and many health and cooking magazines. There are even computer programs available that look at food items and list their nutritional composition.

Using this information, the students design a restaurant around a theme. As an introduction to their restaurant, they define their approach to nutrition. They design a menu of 10 items, listing the nutritional information relevant to each item. They market their restaurant in a commercial (audio, video, or live skit). Then, they treat their peers to a taste-tempting sample of an item from their menu which they have prepared from scratch, or very close to it. (I don't allow delivered pizza, or frozen food items directly from a store. I require that students work in their kitchens cooking or modifying purchased food. Believe it or not, the parents enjoy helping their children out!)

Materials needed vary, but usually include the following for presentations:

  • VCR for playing recorded commercials
  • Tape player for playing audio commercials
  • Microwave or oven to warm foods, or coolers/refrigerators to store foods until presentation time, (usually the Home Ec. dept. helps)
The project has 5 parts which I grade separately. They are:
  1. Definition of nutrition.
    This is included in their menu where a history might really be included in a real menu. Something like, "Welcome to Mario's where nutrition is defined as...". Along with this definition, item by item consumer information must be included for each of the 10 menu items.

  2. Development of a theme.
    This could be generic like "Italian" or "Greek" or it could be a specialty place like a "health food bar" in a gym. In this area, look for follow-through in naming menu items and in types of menu items.

  3. Artistic menu design.
    Here is where we scientists give a nod to the artist in each of us. This grade is purely aesthetic but then isn't dining out mostly aesthetic? Make up any guidelines of your choosing. Allowing for individuality usually has its own rewards.

  4. Marketing commercial.
    I always ask the question, "Does this commercial make me want to eat in this restaurant?" While visual tricks are often fun, watching Monte Python's scene of a fat man exploding in a restaurant doesn't really make me want to eat there!

  5. Food sample.
    If the students work on a treat for the class they should be rewarded for this. Cost of food doesn't count. Finger Jell-o if presented properly - should count just as much as baked lasagna. And to preserve individual feelings, every student should at least taste each food brought in. And these do need to be only tastes, we are not supplying lunch.


Evaluation:

Evaluation is flexible. I count this project equal to a test, 100 points. They apply enough energy to this project to deserve it. Within each category, 20 points are possible. Most students receive grades near 100. The most often missed area is the nutrition definition. Please be clear to the students about what is expected here. I do not allow them to make up their own definition. There are plenty of available ways to assess diet. Let them find one that they like and use it. The operative thought here is BE CREATIVE AND HAVE FUN!


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