Good Food Guide

By Dana Holden, December 15, 2016

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Design for the Other 90%

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • Technology

Lesson Time

2 x 90 minutes


This lesson is designed to provoke conversation around healthy food and eating habits both at school and at home. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s By The People: Designing a Better America exhibition has a range of designs that explore American innovations and designers, including Fresh Moves Mobile Markets and Rent Regulation Rights. The fresh food design is about bringing healthy food to communities and the posters help citizens learn about public policies that effect their communities. Students will explore healthy and inexpensive food options so that they are informed about the choices they are making and will use this knowledge to design posters for their school to educate others. They can also develop a presentation to teach to younger students about making good food choices. This lesson links to a number of disciplines in that it requires research, planning, exploration of energy and calories (incorporating social studies, math and science), language skills, art and technology for their posters and presentations.


Over the course of the two lessons, students will: • identify and select healthy food choices. • understand good food choices. • create and present their ideas to a class of their peers. • justify their decisions based on class discussion. • develop collaboration, communication and leadership skills.


• Dietary guidelines: United State Department of Agriculture • Computer • Projector • BY THE PEOPLE - Fresh Moves Mobile Markets and Rent Regulation Rights BACKGROUND: With so much focus on dieting and body image, it is important that students understand how to make healthy choices in relation to their lifestyle and to be informed about the food they are consuming. These two lessons aim to begin a conversation with young students around how to approach making decisions about food and what “diet” really means so that they are able to analyze the nutritional value of food and what are safe eating practices. The following texts are recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture to introduce basic concepts of healthy food to young students. Depending on the age, literacy level and prior knowledge of your students these could be useful pre-texts: Good Enough to Eat by Lizzy Rockwell (1999) Showdown at the Food Pyramid by Rex Barron (2004)


Lesson 1 Food placement activity: Large (1 meter diameter) circles – 1 green, 1 orange, 1 red Food placement activity: food items which could include: milk carton, chocolate milk carton, carrot, banana, cheese, oil, egg, broccoli, pasta, rice, white bread, wholegrain bread, meat (or something to represent meat), pasta sauce bottle, candy, chocolate Design activity: pipe cleaners, wooden stirrers, sticky tape, glue, coffee filters, foam, foil and scissors Lesson 2 Design activity – posters: A3 poster paper or chart paper, colored cardboard, glue, sticky tape, pipe cleaners, coffee filters, paint, paint brushes, containers for water for paint, straws, colored pens and pencils, foam, foil and scissors, wooden stirrers.


• Healthy • Unhealthy • Diet • Moderation • Common • Habit • Protein • Vitamins • Minerals • Dairy • Kosher • Halal • Vegetarian


LESSON 1 1. What is design? Ask students what they think design is and discuss their understanding of it in society. Show attached power point of examples of what design is. Design is all around us. Link to Cooper Hewitt’s By The People exhibition Fresh Moves Mobile Markets and Rent Regulation Rights. 2. Discussion - We are what we eat: Talk to the students about what a healthy diet means. “Diet” does not mean losing weight or a current trend in food, it means the food that is part of a person’s regular eating habits. On a table layout a variety of food options and ask the students to place the food into different colored circles – green for “healthy” food, orange for “sometimes” food and red for “unhealthy” food. Ask the students to decide as a class where they want to place each item of food. Items of food you could include are: milk carton, chocolate milk carton, carrot, banana, cheese, oil, egg, broccoli, pasta, rice, white bread, wholegrain bread, meat (or something to represent meat), pasta sauce bottle, candy, chocolate and so on. Food items to represent a variety of food groups and common foods that students might eat are ideal. 3. Review: Go through Dietary Guidelines (resources link 1) on a projector with the class and discuss the placement of each food item. Ask open questions about the choices the class made and if they were right in their placement of the items or if there were some that belonged to different groups and why. Pose questions to the students such as “Why do you think this food item is a healthier/unhealthier food than we thought?” Discuss why the Dietary Guidelines exist and how students can use this as a guide to healthy eating. Discuss that a balanced diet (i.e. food from all food groups) is a healthy choice. Sweet foods are sometimes okay, just not on a regular basis. You could also talk here about vegetarianism, etc. and how these lifestyle choices mean that they might get their vitamins and minerals from a variety of sources outside of animal meat/products. Again, you could take this conversation further by talking about Kosher and Halal diets and what that means, particularly if you have a mix of students in your class. This activity can develop understanding and empathy in your students as they become more informed about the beliefs of people other than themselves. 4. Design time: In groups of 4 the students are to make an item of food that belongs to one of the food groups out of materials provided to them. Set each group a different food group that they need to design for (e.g. vegetables, protein, dairy). They can be 2D or 3D. You can discuss shape and what 2D and 3D mean and link to Math Standards. Materials for activity could include: pipe cleaners, wooden stirrers, sticky tape, glue, coffee filters, foam, foil and scissors. You can add or subtract materials based on your needs and class context. Students can have 30 minutes to create their food item. Remind them that this is representative of the food and doesn’t have to look just like it or “perfect”. 5. Sharing: Groups show the class their food item and which food group it belongs to and why. These items can then be displayed in the room. LESSON 2 1. Review and next steps: Review what the students learned and achieved last lesson about healthy eating and making choices about food. Let them know that this lesson they will be using that knowledge to create a visually informative poster that they can put up in their school to show other students what healthy food options exist. 2. Group work – Poster planning: Either in the same groups as last lesson or in new design teams, students will be given a focus area to create a poster for display. They will need to plan their design first, receive feedback from the class and then create their poster for a presentation to the class and then for display in your school. Review Dietary Guidelines on a projector with the class. Suggestions for focus questions for design teams: If the user are other students at school who haven’t learned what you have… • How might we show what a healthy diet looks like? • How might we show a balanced breakfast? • How might we show a balanced lunch? • How might we show what types of foods are in different food groups? • How might we show what nutrients and minerals are found in different food groups? You can adapt these “How might we…?” questions based on the level and needs of your students. You can either assign questions or have them pick them, or draw them out of a bucket. They can brainstorm ideas and sketch their work for their poster. 3. Feedback and review: Design teams share what they have come up with so far to the class to get helpful feedback and refine their ideas. When they have had their go they will return to their groups to make any changes and then create their final posters. 4. Design time: The design teams can be given materials they need to make their posters. These materials could include but are not limited to: A3 poster paper or chart paper, colored cardboard, glue, sticky tape, pipe cleaners, coffee filters, paint, paint brushes, containers for water for paint, straws, colored pens and pencils, scissors, foam, foil, wooden stirrers. 5. Presenting: Groups present their poster to the class and talk about WHERE the poster would go and WHY. HOW the poster is informative and WHAT issue it is addressing. Students can create a power point presentation if you would like to and have the capacity to incorporate digital technologies. 6. Poster Display: Posters can then be displayed around your school, room or wherever it suits you in your context.


Students will be able to take part in the different discussions about food groups and which food items belong to each group. Students will be able to design and create a food item based on the food group given to them in their group. Students will be able to collaborate with their group and present their ideas to the class to justify their choice of design.

Enrichment Extension Activities

This design challenge has a range of ways in which you connect a number of disciplines and utilize higher order thinking skills (HOTS). You can adapt the “How might we…?” questions to elicit a wider range of focus areas and adapt specificity of the topic to suit your context. Instead of a poster design the challenge could be to create an app for school administration, teachers and or students to use to engage in healthy eating options. Alternatively, the project could also be a digital installation or videoed presentation that could play throughout the school or on assemblies. This task could also be taken further and have students design a healthy meal plan for an identified group of people: an Olympian, a ballet dancer, a sumo wrestler, a pregnant woman, etc. The choice is yours!

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