Foundations of Food in Fifth Grade

In preparation of creating lessons and unit plans, I have been doing some analysis of various outcomes in the Saskatchewan Curriculum in my education classes. We have looked at outcomes for a variety of reasons such as:

  • Do I understand what this outcome means?
  • Do I have questions about this outcome?
  • Could I find a way to teach this outcome?
  • Could I connect this outcome to one from another subject area?

This week, we’ve been looking at understanding outcomes and brainstorming activities and assessments for them. Let’s look at a Health outcome from grade 5; Understanding Skills and Confidences USC5.1.

The purpose of the outcome is for the students to be able to analyze personal eating practices, or in other words, examine the world of what we eat. Students can look at why some people eat differently depending on culture, location, or preference, and what foods are better for people to eat and why.

Using the list of indicators, a teacher could create many great activities to help students understand this outcome. Here are a few of my ideas:

  • Keep a food log and take pictures of the labels (when available) of the foods you eat for 1 week. Analyze labels, and find out what each section means. Calculate the daily intakes of calories, fat, sugars, sodium, and mineral contents based on the photos and compare with recommended amounts. Create a plan to adjust any overages or shortages for the next week, repeating the food log process to see if there is improvement after learning about labels and nutritional values.
  • Research via the internet, videos, etc. how fast food and processed foods affects people’s nutrition. Students could do this as an inquiry project to see what types of food are the worst and what makes them so bad.
  • Read about and analyze different diets such as vegan, vegetarian and paleo and compare them in a chart or diagram.

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To assess this outcome, students could:

  • Create a brochure to explain about what foods are healthy and which foods are not
  • Do a presentation of their findings about which foods are the worst for people to eat
  • Produce a music video about the dangers of processed and fast foods
  • Create an advertisement to help people make better food choices by reading labels

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There are a lot of fun activities and assessment methods that could be included for this outcome! You could also make many more indicators to expand upon the students’ understanding of eating practices, such as:

  • Examine how media influences (advertisements) and social, cultural and geographical settings (e.g. Canada vs. France vs. Japan) affect food preparation and consumption.
    • In this indicator I think that students could look at how the Canadian lifestyle differs from that of other countries and how that affects how people eat. After my travels to Europe, I know that it is a much different lifestyle where it is often easier to eat more healthy as fresh food is often more available and the pace of life is more relaxed. I would imagine that in other parts of the world this would also vary and would influence how and what people eat.

The bottom line is that through this indicator students should be able to analyze how and what people eat, and what is healthiest for their lives. Sounds like it would be a lot of fun to create a unit for this!

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If you’ve read this much, you deserve a fun video! I really enjoy the Kid Snippets videos as they show such an interesting side of how young kids think and see our world. Here’s one about fast food. It doesn’t talk much about the actual food that’s being purchased until the end, which could be an interesting point to bring up with your students. Is. Dr. Pepper for kids? Enjoy!



I’m a Good Canadian Citizen…I think…

What does it really mean to be a “good citizen”? What does it mean to be a Canadian citizen? Do we actually teach these things to our students? Or do we just teach students the vague and stale versions of citizenship and democracy that are provided in a school board supplied text book or resource like this?

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I feel that this grade 6 guide to to a unit on Canadian Citizenship is a prime example of the way citizenship is taught in our schools. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of our government, examines prominent historical dates, and explores what new citizens must learn in order to apply for Canadian Citizenship by having the students role play the process. But are these students really learning and understanding what it means to be a Canadian Citizen or anything of real value about our country’s history of democracy? I would say not. This drab unit only serves to lay out seemingly boring information to a group of students that have no real way of connecting the information to their real world. What worth is it in having students navigate the process of citizenship? Does it really allow them to explore what it means to be a Canadian Citizen beyond the surface stereotypes? Perhaps it could, if the teacher was willing to dive deeper, but I feel that many teachers would be fearful to go beyond what is set out in the unit outline.

I think it is fair to say that the citizenship education that is taught in our schools is far removed from anything real or genuine about our country ,and it gives a false sense of the democratic process, because there is no modelling of it in their own school community. Allan Sears’ article, “In Search of Good Citizens : Citizenship in Education and Social Studies in Canada: Citizenship in Education and Social Studies in Canada” certainly brings up theses points, and addresses questions like, what do students know about effective citizenship? Are students ignorant because they have been un-educated or misinformed, or are they alienated and disengaged from the entire democratic concept? Sears explores these in the article, and I really felt connected to the words he wrote, and found myself saying, “Yes! Schools need to do better!”.  Sears points out that even provincial/territorial educational ministries “are reluctant to give firm direction on the matter of teaching and learning strategies in areas that are normally associated with citizenship education” (p. 101), which I feel only further demonstrates the general reluctance and avoidance of having to define Canadian Citizenship and outline what our students need to know. Why is this though? Honestly, I think it is because even those of us who have lived here all our lives are unsure what it means to be a Canadian Citizen.

Sears points out how there has been all this research done into understanding how children learn, but that it hasn’t been applied to citizenship education (p. 102), and I feel that this is because the more we know, the more we know what we don’t know! Yes, we may understand how children think, and how they need to learn, but do we know WHAT they need to learn? Do they really need to know what’s written in a text book? Or do they need to understand what Bill C51 is, and how it can affect people in our communities? Do students need to list the dates of the Euro-centrically important historical events leading up to the confederation of Canada? Or do they need to understand the Treaties, and what has happened to the First Nations peoples of our country? Do students need to memorize the government’s definition of democracy? Or do they need to understand and be able to model the true heart of democracy in their community?

We live in a very multi-cultural society, and as such I think it is crucial that students explore what it means to be a good Canadian citizen in more than just a “picture-perfect-bulletin-board-worthy-collage-let’s-pick-up-litter-in-the-park” sort of way. We need to be brave enough to ask questions that make students question their own thoughts. We need to be able to have those conversations about how students of various cultural and religious backgrounds may have a different interpretation of Canadian Citizenship and how they fit in. While there are certainly several resources out there on teaching citizenship, like this one from the Government of Canada, I think it is the real task of teachers to pause and take a look at the messages these types of resources are giving, and then find or create supplementary resources to be able to look at the whole picture.

If we want to teach students about citizenship and democracy then we have to model it, but we must also understand it ourselves. At this point I’m not even sure I could fairly say that I do this, but I am certainly working on it. I am working at understanding and appreciating our Canadian history, including the ongoing history of our First Nations, Metis and Inuit brothers and sisters. I am working at critically evaluating and considering the platforms of our politicians so that I can make informed choices in our elections. I am working at discussing and sharing my knowledge and learning from those more knowledgeable than I on matters of Canadian governance, policy and position. We have to take the time to truly create an understanding of what Canadian Spirit is. This all takes time though, and I am not sure one can ever truly understand it all, but that should not deter us from teaching history, democracy and citizenship to our students. We are all learners, and we can teach and learn alongside our students, as long as we do it from a place of realism and in the spirit of community.

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The Witness Blanket Project is a beautiful and moving art installation currently on display at the University of Regina. Its purpose is to educate the public by engaging them with artifacts collected and donated from Indian Residential Schools and survivors across Canada. There are over 800 artifacts on display as part of the work, and many are very telling of the types of experiences and settings of the schools. There are many books, plaques, photographs, newspaper articles, toys, and pieces of the buildings themselves.

The question I kept asking as I witnessed this amazing work was “How does this piece connect to curriculum?” Certainly in the Residential Schools, the curriculum was created to “take the Indian out of the child” and make them more like the European settlers. This was done in many ways, including what was taught, but I think the most traumatizing part of the Residential schools was not necessarily what was taught, but HOW and WHERE it was taught. Children were torn from their families and communities and made to live in unfamiliar places with strangers amongst foreign customs and traditions. So my focus as as I examined the artifacts was not really about the actual things that the students were taught, but about the place that they were learning in.

Many of the building artifacts are very manufactured pieces and include things like glass, shingles, door knobs, and this striking piece of tin.

Witness Blanket Tin Artifact

It was these pieces that spoke to me the most. These buildings were such foreign places to the students who were forced to attend them, but they completely influenced their experiences and their education. I am realizing that curriculum is not just about what you learn, but how you learn it, and the experiences that go along with that learning. I feel like this piece of tin represents the culture that was being imposed on the students. It is clearly not something of an Indigenous nature, as the Fleur de Lis imprints suggest something of a French background, and this type of tin-smithing was not a cultural practice of Indigenous people.

As a result of this new understanding of curriculum being more than just a list of topics to be learned, my relationship with curriculum is becoming more complex. It becomes clearer that individual students can have varied experiences with curriculum based on their interactions with the learning environment. Many of my own experiences in school were quite positive because I was often able to develop a good rapport with my teachers, but I also had some poor experiences in some classes (especially in high school), which negatively affected my view not only on school but on the subject area that I was learning. As a pre-service teacher, these revelations are really helpful as they will help to shape my own perspectives as a teacher, and will influence how I approach the creation of a classroom environment in addition to the subject content that I teach.

I feel like I am becoming a very reflective and somewhat existentialist teacher. Choice, freedom and environment have such an impact on how a person reacts, learns, and experiences the world. When teachers create too many rules and barriers to positive student learning then the student can begin to view education as a chore, or as something boring and meaningless to his or her life. I am really appreciating all of the new ideas that I am being exposed to in my classes and my own independent reading as they are truly expanding my mind. I think I will be constantly trying to understand my relationship with curriculum as a teacher throughout my career in order to create the best environment for the students I work with.

“To bear witness, or to show by your existence that something is true, is to pay tribute to all who have been directly or indirectly affected by Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.” – Witness Blanket

What is Curriculum?

Curriculum. A word I have head for many years, but until I became a student in the Faculty of Education had not really given much thought to as I have really only understood it to be a word pertaining to education. So what is it? Well, as I began my 4th semester in education, my definition of curriculum was:

  • An outline of the expectations to be learned at a given grade level across all subject areas. These outcomes are determined by the ministry of education and all teachers are to follow and complete them in their teaching. They are to be used to guide the teaching, not dictate how the concepts are to be taught. It is up to the classroom teacher to determine in what order and by what methods the outcomes will be learned by the students.

But is that really what curriculum is?

My experiences with curriculum and learning in elementary and high school were very traditional for the most part. We learned from the textbooks that were provided by the school, wrote tests, and occasionally wrote some assignments or papers, or did some projects based on the information we were learning. I very seldom had teachers who went “off book” to teach anything. It was those teachers who went beyond the textbook though, who have stayed with me to this day. I had a teacher in grade 6 who would give us visual word puzzles (rebus puzzles) to expand our minds and vocabulary, and would read to us from books like the Horrible Histories series to show us that there was more to history than boring facts. In grade 7 I had a teacher who had us plan a pretend trip to Arizona (I seriously thought it was real at first!) to practice our math skills, and had us create our own bands, complete with album covers and tour itineraries, as part of art and social studies projects. It was these projects and teachers who showed me that curriculum doesn’t have to be boring, but why then, do I write such a boring answer to the question of what is curriculum?

I think that this comes from a societal “norm” of having to give the “correct” answer, or the one that is perhaps most common. I know that curriculum is encompassing of all learning, and is more about the experiences that students have, rather than the government mandated list of expected outcomes for each grade level. I feel like I often get caught up in thinking that there is a “right” and a “wrong” answer, and since I want to do well in my courses, I should give the “right” answer, meaning the one that is expected. I think that this is often the case with the understanding of curriculum by in-service teachers also. Everyone is so concerned with doing the right thing, pleasing the parents, the faculty and the government, that they sometimes forget that education is an experience, and encompasses more than just what is in a textbook or on a list of outcomes. Sure, there are certain areas that each grade level focuses on, but why must we get so caught up on only those lists and the “rules”? Are we limiting what we teach our students and how we do it?

Sir Ken Robinson has some great thoughts on this:

I really appreciate his thought that kids aren’t afraid to be wrong! Yet I think that traditional education creates a structure that makes us think we can’t be wrong and that there is only one right answer. I think that the way we typically think of curriculum totally supports this idea. We think, as teachers, that there’s only one curriculum and that we must teach it in the “right” way. How can we change that?

I think I’ll go watch some more videos now! I really enjoy Sir Ken Robinson’s perspectives on education and human potential and am excited to try and apply some more of these thoughts to our conversations on curriculum, and was blown away by the young boy’s interpretation of “what do you want to be when you grow up” and how to bring happiness, health, and creativity into the curriculum. Who knows, maybe I’ll be an education hacker!

We are living in a digital world

There’s no denying that the world we live in is connected into technology at all times. So how do we teach students to live in this world in a responsible way and embrace their digital citizenship?

I found this totally cheesy video that has a good message in it.

We know that children have tremendous access to the internet, but do they know how to use it responsibly and promote a positive image? Some might, but many are not likely aware of the impact they can have online. The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education promotes digital fluency in our students, and are looking to integrate the teaching of digital citizenship into the curriculum.

Within the current curriculum there are already several outcomes that lend themselves to the integration of learning about digital citizenship. I have listed a few below that I feel would work well for the middle years grades.

English Language Arts: Grades 6-9
All of these grades have very similar outcomes in Comprehend & Respond and Compose & Create.

CR 6.1, 7.1, 8.1, and 9.1 read something similar to: View, listen to, read, comprehend, and respond to a variety of texts that address identity, social responsibility, and efficacy

and CC 6.1, 7.1, 8.1, and 9.1 read something similar to: Create various visual, oral, written, and multimedia (including digital) texts that explore identity, social responsibility, and efficacy.

With these outcomes lessons could be designed to read and discuss a variety of fictional and real posts that are on Facebook, Twitter, etc, and the types of photos that are posted on these outlets and others like Instagram and SnapChat. Students could analyse what creates a positive and what creates a socially positive identity. Through these conversations students could work at creating texts and projects that demonstrate their understanding of digital citizenship.

These conversations could also tie in with Grade 6-9 Career Education Outcomes about positive identity

  • LW 6.1 – Examine effective practices such as responsible decision making, cooperation, and accepting diversity and predict their continued importance in one’s own career.
  • CG 6.1 & 7.1 – Investigate the influence of a positive self-image on one’s life.
  • CG 8.1 –  Analyze one’s own self-image including personal skills, interests, and behaviours and their influences on one’s life and work.
  • CG 9.1 – Plan for, demonstrate, and document improvements of one’s own capacity for building a positive self-image.

By understanding the impact of responsible digital citizenship, students can look at the impacts of their online identity with the prospects of a career. Perhaps role-playing type scenarios could be set up to replicate business and their views on potential employees based on their online presence. I found an interesting website that offers some ideas on career education, and I think there are some great possibilities for integrating digital citizenship.

students on computers

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There is also some great potential in some of the social studies outcomes.

  • PA 6.1 – Examine the relationship between an individual’s power and authority and the power and authority of others.
  • PA 8.2 – Examine the role of power and authority in the application of diverse decision-making processes in a variety of contexts.
  • IN7.3 – Analyze the relationship of technology to globalization.

These outcomes really connect to how much a reach the internet really has. Students could examine the rules that are placed in “real-world” society, and whether or not those same rules extend to the internet. The concept of globalization could also be explored in seeing how our digital citizenship allows us to connect with the world beyond our classroom, province and country and share ideas in a positive manner. These outcomes can then connect back into some of the ELA outcomes about reading and responding to social responsibility. Here are some more great websites that connect kids with the world:

There really are so many ways to connect students to the idea of digital citizenship and teach them how to be responsible members of the global community.

This little clip from Discovery about the movie Tron: Legacy I think shows how movies like this can really help kids explore some of the themes behind what we would be looking at in the classroom. I haven’t seen this movie, but I’m thinking it should be on my must watch list!