Food, Fun, and Education: How to Include Healthy Foods in Classroom Games

Healthy Food Choices in Schools March 10, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

boys in school Education is getting more complex for the teachers, yet the need for healthy lifestyle choices is constantly growing. Everyone loves a good game, whether it’s a board game, simulation game, or a gaming device. Games can also be educational tools; Ed Dieterle, a Senior Program Officer for Research, Measurement and Evaluation for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that “for a student sitting in the median who doesn’t have a game, his or her learning achievement would have increased by 12% if he or she had that game."  Shapiro’s study also found that “play is useful because it stimulates real life experience – physical, emotional and/or intellectual – in a safe, iterative and social environment, not because it has winners and losers. The achievement lies in the act of learning and understanding itself." Many teachers have already realized using beneficial game-based learning strategies can be quite effective, others are still hesitant or overwhelmed at finding good ways to engage the students in learning and games.  Incorporating games into healthy lifestyle choices is a way to make eating and choosing healthier options less intimidating, including games in school curriculum is also a good way to make learning fun and memorable. A few tips for including games in the classroom are listed below, 

  • Use Competition – students love to compete as long as they aren’t losing too much. Having relays, using timed-answer games, including an educational version of games like Jeopardy, Family Feud and others are great ways to get kids excited about educational and nutritional information.
  • Keep Education – mix in fun activities with the existing educational materials. If you’re having a pre-test study, or review, turn it into a game by seeing which group of students can get the most answers. Simple things like dividing the classroom and giving a small reward to the winning team will motivate, but be sure to mix the student groups up so everyone gets a chance to be recognized. Have a jingle-contest to see which student can make the most creative song with the material you’re covering. 
  • Review the Game– at the end of each game, give the students time to think out loud about their answers, what they learned or what questions they may have. As the teacher, be sure to ask questions to facilitate educational input. Go over educational information as well as why it’s important to eat healthy. If you can tie facts with something they enjoy, odds of memorization is greatly improved.

You can also find games explained in greater detail here.

The use of tablets is also quite popular in some school districts, using educational based games on forms of technology allows students to learn through technology. Check with local Extension Offices or school boards to find education based nutrition aps and games that can be used to teach in the classrooms.

Many games are already employed in the classrooms, adapting them to have healthy rewards or adding some nutritious information is often quite simple. Many times, having subtle changes will bring healthy choices to the forefront of a student's mind. Making small adaptations to the current curriculum is easy. Below are some simple ways to include healthy food into discussions:

  • When working on math word problems, use healthy foods or exercises in examples. To study ratios, get the classroom out of their chairs and move them around.
  • In social studies classes, look at what different peoples eat and their dining practices and even how differing diets affect health. In younger classrooms, have the students get moving by acting out historical events.
  • In science, when talking about plants or working on science projects grow something healthy and let the kids try it once it’s ripe. Talk about the ways foods effect growth. A great active game would be to have the youth demonstrate the cycle of growth – a small seed (curl up as small as you can), growth (have them stretch upwards), have winds, rain, intense sunlight or an earthquake (students sway, wither, shake or stretch higher).  

Incorporating games in the classroom can enhance learning, increase fun, and get the students interacting on a positive level with their fellow classmates.


Contributor

Sarah Ransom, University of Tennessee Extension 

Sources

Marzano, R. (2010, February 1). The Art and Science of Teaching / Using Games to Enhance Student Achievement. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb10/vol67/num05/Using-Games-to-Enhance-Student-Achievement.aspx

Shapiro, J. (2014, June 27). Games In The Classroom: What the Research Says. Retrieved December 1, 2014, from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/06/games-in-the-classroom-what-the-research-says/


 

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.