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Our Environmental Footprint - Talking About Food

Elementary

Description

“Talking about Food” is one of a series of lessons that uses active learning to teach young children concepts associated with understanding their ecological footprint.  Students explore their food choices in relationship to the 5 N’s (natural, near, now, naked, nutrition).  As they critically examine how food consumption impacts the environment they are active participants in a hands-on learning process where they:

  • Define organic and local foods.
  • Identify excess packaging of foods.
  • Investigate the seasonal availability of local foods.
  • Develop an understanding of the “food miles” concept as it relates to sustainability.
  • Describe personal goals for reducing their food “footprint”.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Sorting and classifying
  • Brainstorming
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking

Strengths

  • Considers human health in connection to environmental health
  • Uses multiple instructional strategies
  • Relevant and meaningful topic

Weaknesses

  • The resource could have included an easily developed action project focused on growing food
  • Does not include any assessment tools
  • Food information is very Ontario specific

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource supports Science and Social Studies outcomes related to exploring human impacts on the environment, pollution, stewardship and global issues. Health outcomes are also supported by discussions surrounding nutrition.  The learning could be easily extended with a trip to a community garden where students could work alongside local citizens to learn more about the food growing process.

A peer awareness project could involve the class in preparing a snack for classrooms that features local food products and includes a brief presentation about sustainable food choices.   A citizenship project could involve students in approaching local farms for donations of “imperfect” produce that might be thrown away and providing this food to local seniors or a food bank.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • Ecological Footprint
  • Food & Agriculture (1)

    • Local Food

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

Food choices are explored in the context of environmental responsibility and the connection to nutrition.  Healthy for the environment typically means healthier for the human since organic food is grown without harsh chemicals and pesticides and natural/local foods typically have higher nutrient values.  

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

The connection between food miles, intensive agriculture and the environment ensures students are aware that transportation increases carbon emissions, fertilizers impact water quality and pesticides threaten ecosystems and habitats.  

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

Presents an age appropriate and balanced view of how individual sustainability choices can collectively result in significant global change.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

The culminating activity "Count Yourself In" encourages student engagement by offering a forum for individual expression about food choices and encourages positive change by tracking when students choose to buy food that is local, in season or has minimal packaging.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

Students have many opportunities to analyze and reflect on personal feelings about food and the environment.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Satisfactory

One extension activity suggests a community walk so the class can observe signs of food growth such as apple trees.  This exercise would deepen student appreciation for nature.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

This resource raises awareness of how farmers within the community can provide many options for grocery shopping at locations like farmer's markets and local food vendors.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Student driven strategies for reducing environmental impact support looking toward the future and increases the likelihood of long lasting changes in the way they think about sustainability.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The hands-on approach actively engages students in the subject matter and supports evidence based learning,

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

  • Science
  • Social Studies

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

Hands-on activities, role play and games encourage meaningful dialogue and stimulate curiosity about the topic.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good
Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

The experiential component of the lesson could be enhanced with a visit to a local community garden to learn more about the growing process by assisting with tasks like planting, weeding or harvest.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Poor/Not considered
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Poor/Not considered
Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

The personal connections to food sustain an interest in the topic and encourage extended discussions with family about grocery purchases.  Thus, the learners will become invested in this lesson beyond the classroom.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

Students have a great deal of choice in the decision-making process where they identify strategies for lowering their environmental footprint.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.