Counting Apples Instead of M&Ms: Could the End of Candy Math Activities Be in Sight?
|October 17, 2013||Posted by Stacy under Junk food in school|
AWhen my oldest son (who turns 8 today–Happy Birthday, big guy!!!) started preschool, it never even occurred to me that he would be eating anything other than what I packed in his lunchbox. So you can only imagine my surprise when I started hearing about birthday cupcakes, cookies, lollipops, and a field trip to McDonald’s (yes, my 2-year-old actually boarded a school bus and drove on snow-slick roads to Mickey D’s). But it didn’t stop there: In addition to classroom parties and sugary rewards, the kids were using candy like M&Ms and Skittles for math exercises and other learning activities.
Despite the national push for healthier classrooms, junk food is still being incorporated into the curriculum at countless preschools, elementary, middle and high schools. Books like The M&M’s Brand Chocolate Candies Counting Book and The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Fractions Book tell the story, as does a quick Internet search that turns up numerous articles including A Dozen Candy-Coated Math Activities on the Education Week site.
I do have great compassion for teachers who struggle for ways to get kids excited to learn. But in this day and age, candy shouldn’t be the answer. So I was excited to read a recent post on Bag the Junk about how a group of educational publishers have pledged to incorporate more healthy messages in classroom learning materials. In the post, Lisa Sharma Creighton, senior program coordinator for nutrition, hunger and physical activity at the National Education Association’s Health Information Network, offers tips for incorporating healthy eating and physical activity into classroom lessons, including:
- In science class, help students learn the difference between saturated, unsaturated, and trans fat.
- When possible, include imagery showing people of all ages being physically active. This emphasizes that healthy behaviors are important throughout our entire lives.
- Learn how to measure body mass index in math class.
- Analyze marketing messages about food and weight in advertisements, film, TV and on websites.
- Assign writing projects where students lay out an argument about why healthy nutrition is important in communities.
- Use fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in food-related images, problems, and examples. For example, have kids multiply apples instead of cupcakes.
- In history class, study how other countries eat and stay active.
- Teach kids where they can find reliable health information.
- Create lesson plans that incorporate physical activities like walking outside for science class.
Tomorrow, when our district wellness committee meets to begin updating our district wellness policy, I’ll be bringing the idea of officially ditching those candy counting exercises and other classroom activities involving junk food. Because there are ways to keep learning fun without promoting foods that they should be eating less of, not more.
What are your thoughts on candy counting exercises and other classroom lessons that involve junk food? Does your school allow them? Please leave comments down below!