Students at Arbuckle Elementary School are tasting new fruits, nibbling new vegetables and sampling unfamiliar proteins. The project is under the direction of PE teacher, Noah Gomez, who has partnered with Liz Dawley at the UC Extension office to provide students with lessons on food nutrition.
Students use a place-mat with color coded food groups (dairy, protein, vegetables, fruits, grains) to discuss, sort and sample various products. While older students understand that cheese and yogurt are made from milk, younger children needed guidance to place bread in the grain group. “Lots of bread is made from wheat, which is a grain,” explained Gomez to a second grade class, “So what food group does bread belong to?” Students quickly pointed to the orange portion of the dinner plate labeled GRAINS.
Many students have parents working in the tree nut industry and were familiar with almonds, but pistachios, walnuts and pecans provided an enriched experience. Most adults are familiar with the old Food Pyramid from the USDA that suggested serving sizes and resembled an Egyptian pyramid made of food layers. The new USDA guidelines use the symbol of a dinner plate. The MyPlate logo encourages people to “Build a Healthy Plate” that is ½ fruits and vegetables, ¼ lean protein and ¼ whole grains. One serving of low fat dairy is also recommended. Gomez’s students compare the portions of preschoolers, youth and adult serving sizes.
Gomez is also including information on how the food items are grown. Students trace the food from “farm to plate” observing the stages of development from seed to blossom to maturity. Donated food items are cut into bite sized pieces and every student is expected to participate in a tasting trial. Gomez allows students to say, “No Thank You” after the first bite. Surprisingly, most students who are reluctant to try unknown foods have discovered new food items that they like. The students so far have sampled figs, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios and strawberry, orange and banana smoothies. The biggest surprise were figs, says Gomez. Most children were unfamiliar with the small, hairy fruit and balked at sampling the sweet, seedy innards. But after trying the required sample bite, students described the fruit as “tasting like jam!”
This nutrition/health/PE project will continue throughout the school year. Students are also encouraged to continue learning about healthy food choices by going to the website ChooseMyPlate.gov. With the national concern for child and adult obesity on the rise, Gomez decided his Physical Education and Health lessons needed to include nutrition as well as calisthenics, dance, cardio training, skill building, teamwork and sportsmanship. Arbuckle Elementary and the Pierce District continue to make PE teachers for all grade levels a high priority.
“The program is also part of the Safe School Plan” says Principal Carol Geyer. “The goal is to Educate students on the need to eat properly and exercise. Students will be receiving pedometers, which they will wear to measure their distance running during PE. Each pedometer can be placed in a data port to track each individual student’s distance.” Food Services manager, Marla Pagliai is also supportive, reports Gomez. She has helped to provide food, supplies and facilities. After students study and taste the new food items in Gomez’s PE class, Pagliai incorporates the food items into the school breakfast and lunch program. The nutritional lessons in PE are truly a team effort. “When students are physically active, informed about their nutritional choices and constantly encouraged to develop positive character traits in P.E., everyone benefits,” commented Principal Geyer. K