Healthy eyes are part of overall health, so eating right, exercising, and getting enough rest are important for healthy eyes. Recent research confirms, however, that certain foods and nutrients are especially good for the eyes; in fact, people who eat these foods throughout their lives have less age-related vision loss as they age. Help your students develop good eating habits that will protect their eyes from now on — and get some math and social studies practice at the same time.
The foods that make the difference:
- leafy green vegetables
- citrus fruits
- oily fish like sardines and salmon
- nuts (increasing numbers of students have allergies to nuts, but those who are not allergic can benefit)
Clearly, these are healthy foods in any case, but they may be new to many students. These foods contain Omega-3 acids and lutein, nutrients that researchers have found are important for eye health.
Introduce the eye with an interactive experience on your smartboard or computer center:
- The Children’s Museum of Manchester has a simple cartoon introduction to the parts and functioning of the eye. (Requires Flash.)
- The National Eye Institute offers a more detailed interactive diagram.
- The Exploratorium has a virtual dissection of a cow’s eye.
Then collect some data and create visual representations of it — understanding visual representations of information is a key skill for the 21st century.
Practice gathering data while encouraging the consumption of these super healthy foods. Create a bulletin board display of the charts called “Eye See Data” or “Eye See Graphs.”
- Ask student each morning who ate the listed foods, count, and mark the number on the calendar. At the end of the unit, week, or month, use the numbers to create a line graph. Did the class consumption of these foods increase?
- Have a classroom tasting. Bring a variety of leafy greens such as spinach, chard, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and cabbage. Have students taste the various greens and chart who likes or dislikes them. Give each variety a pie chart showing its popularity. Finish with a vote on the best one, and create a pie graph showing that preference.
- Give students incentive charts and stickers to take home. Have them create bar graphs showing how many friends and family members like each of the listed foods.
Where do people eat these eye-healthy foods? Everywhere! From the Dutch herring rollmops (pickled herring) to Vietnamese sardines in tomato sauce, from Southern style collard greens to Portugese kale soup, from Spanish orange cake to South African citrus salads, you can find traditional recipes for all these foods on every inhabited continent.
Have students research the foods on the list, searching for traditional recipes from many different places. As recipes are found, add stickers to the class map to show the locations. Once a country has a sticker, students may not add another but must keep looking till they find a new recipe from a country that does not yet have a sticker.
Use Google Maps to create a map of traditional foods — just open the menu on the left to add places and information. This can be as simple as adding a marker and typing the name of a dish, or as complex as creating a report for each dish with photos and music, so it’s good tech skills and writing practice for every grade.
Challenge students to try the recipes at home, or create a recipe book for students to give parents for a holiday gift. Get some tech practice by making this a computer-generated project. There are lots of ways to do this:
- Use a free Microsoft Office cookbook template to build a cookbook if you have the software on your classroom computers already.
- Use the Family Cookbook Project‘s free software to create a PDF cookbook you can download.
- Create a Pinterest board. Pin the recipes from the sites where they’re found, or you can upload student drawings and type in the entire recipe to make a self-contained recipe board. Share the link on your classroom website so parents can try out the recipes with their kids.
Both the Chart It and the Map It options lend themselves to the creation of infographics. If you’re working with upper grades, click through and use our Infographics Lesson Plan as a culmination of the unit.