Yesterday my group went to Irving Elementary to present our Harvest of the Month activity. Our “crop” was beef. I was a mix of hesitant and intrigued at just exactly how we were going to present on such an odd harvest. How do you make beef fun or interesting? Luckily I paired myself with some excellent NUTR 351 students, two of whom grew up on ranches in Montana.
We all know that group projects can either go really well or they fall on the shoulders of one person, which totally sucks. But everyone in my group did equal work and participated 100%. That resulted in a presentation that went really well. So well in fact, that one kid asked if we would ever be coming back, which felt awesome!
We decided to break our presentation up into four stations, each run by one of the group members. We had to adapt our presentation idea to make sure we covered local beef information in a way that was accessible to 4th graders. I originally had an idea to write a song about beef that could be a sort of sing-a-long, but I was reminded that these kids were probably going to be a bit too old for sing-a-longs. Others in the group planned activities that were a little too advanced. These were good examples of how to evaluate before implementing the lesson plan, or a formative evaluation.
Our four activities included nutrition, safety/quality assurance, montana cattle breeds, and sourcing local beef.
I focused on sourcing local beef. My presentation had a map of Montana on a large thick poster board. I also had a smaller map of the United States underneath the Montana poster. I started out by asking the kids to guess how far a lot of food items have to travel before they get to the grocery store. The facts I have use 1500 miles as an average. I thought it would be good to show the kids how long 1500 miles is, so on the US map I drew lines from Bozeman to two cities that were roughly 1500 miles away. Then I segued into how Montana produces so much beef that it seems silly to get our meat from so far away. I shared that there are more than twice as many cows as people in Montana. That was a fact that about half of the kids did not know. I talked about how many farms and ranches are located in Montana and that this is the #6 beef producing state in the US. I shared the facts by having kids guess answers so as to keep them engaged instead of just talking at them.
After sharing the facts we moved onto an activity. I picked 6 different ranches located in Western Montana. I found them all through the Western Sustainability Exchange, which is a great organization that supports ranchers that use sustainable practices. I wrote a whole blog post about WSE that you can check out and here is their website: – http://www.westernsustainabilityexchange.org
I had different colored tacks associated with the different ranches. Then on my map I had the different towns circled, but instead of putting the names of the towns I put question marks. Then I told the kids what town each ranch was in and had them guess where the town was on the map.
I was a little nervous about my activity. I wanted it to be fun and engaging and I had some issues putting the whole activity together, with printing and sizing everything right. But it engaged all the kids each time I gave the presentation. They shared facts about their lives, where they lived, and where they had visited while I did the presentation. I was really happy that they enjoyed the activity.
After the students rotated through the four different activities we brought them all together for an evaluation. Each of my group members came up with two quiz questions to ask the kids to see if they remembered what they learned. The only question they missed was from the nutrition lesson, which can be a tough concept to teach to young kids. Then we did an activity similar to the one we did today. For our last two questions we asked kids to go to a part of the room with the answer they agreed the most with. The first question asked them to choose one of three options:
1) I didn’t learn anything new about beef today.
2) I knew some things about beef, but I did learn a few new facts.
3) Everything I learned today was new!
The Second question had kids decide between:
1) I had fun today
2) I was bored
This was pretty funny. Almost all the kids ran to the “fun” side of the room. This one younger kid was leaning towards the bored side, but then he seemed to think twice, and then go over to the “fun” side. So we got almost everybody to have fun…
In closing, I am really glad that we got to have this experience. I appreciate the hands on learning outside of the classroom. I also felt a serious responsibility to these kids and so I thought a lot about this presentation and really tried to make it fun and educational. I can see why so much planning needs to go into lessons like these. I also see the value in being flexible and able to adapt quickly. These are two qualities that a community nutritionist should have in order to effectively change behaviors and attitudes in target populations.