BY AARON FOWLES
It’s no secret that kids in America aren’t eating well; any trip to the snack aisle in the supermarket is sufficient evidence of that. We also know that kids aren’t exercising. What we don’t know, clearly, is how to fix it. The negative trend in childhood and adolescent health has continued, and is exaggerated in low-income areas.
The United States Department of Agriculture has given us MyPyramid.gov as a resource to address personal health, as well as tools to reach students. The site has tools that are useful for kids ages 6 and up.
The most powerful tool, in my opinion, is the Blast Off game. In this addictive game, players have to select proper foods and portions in order to power a rocket ship (a thinly veiled metaphor for the body). Exercise must also be included for a successful launch. Generally, the student will first load up on cakes and cookies, then will gasp in dismay as their rocket ship fails to leave terra firma. With a little bit of guidance, though, students can learn to keep an eye on the food group meters, the calorie count, and the exercise gauge. While this might seem at first like just a game, it is in reality a graphical teaching tool full of interactive information. The site provides ample follow-up activities and extensions.
I’ve used this in my ESL class to teach foods and meals, as well as health. It was really effective as it contextualized the vocabulary in an extremely meaningful and motivational way for my students.