Despite all the recent public debate about sugar taxes, obesity, dental health and healthy eating or lack of it, Food as a subject suffers somewhat of an identity crisis where many believe that food education equals baking cakes. In the Food and Nutrition department, however, we are keen to engage girls not only in the more academic study of food, but also in an understanding of the developmental and psychological benefits of having a positive relationship with the food we eat. We aim to equip students with the practical skills and knowledge to look after their physical and mental health in adulthood.
Food as a subject is also broad in its scientific scope while embracing social, environmental and moral issues such as animal welfare and food sustainability. Staff teach students about the impact of food and eating habits on mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual health. We define and differentiate between definitions of health, discuss the social determinants of health. We look at many health and nutrition promotion strategies and campaigns such as the Change for Life and Action on Salt initiatives.
In food lessons we use interactive methods of learning such as using animation, flash cards, quizzes, board games, Prezi, silent practical’s, self and peer assessment worksheets, mini demonstrations and exam practice questions. We have a stretch and challenge wall; which is used to push students out of their comfort zone in terms of learning and a calm wall which encourages students to use positive self-statements to get them through any stressful moments. We proudly display the work of our students for others to see.
In year 7, students learn about the five a day key messages and the importance of fruit and vegetables in their diet. We do this by visually showing the weights and measurements of the portions whether that be a handful of grapes, 3 heaped tablespoons of peas, 30g of dried apricots or 150 ml of fruit juice. We encourage students to eat a wide variety by eating colours associated with a rainbow. As a homework activity, students track how many portions of fruit and vegetable they consume over a week and write a report reflecting on this which includes suggestions on how they can encourage young people in general to eat their five-a-day. Student also learn about the importance of adequate hydration levels in a practical activity where they make a smoothie to share and evaluate with their friends. We refer to the sugar content of a variety of popular drinks in our sugar rush display and discuss the consequences of drinking high sugar laden drinks daily.
In year 8, pupils learn about the eat well plate, the Government’s 8 healthy eating guidelines and the main sources and functions of both macro and micro nutrients in the diet. This is a lot of information to digest so we try to teach it in easy manageable chunks and by using memorable acronyms, quizzes and animated videos. Students also experiment with different cooking methods in practical lessons while preparing main meals. They also learn about adapting cultural recipes to make healthier alternatives and this is assessed end of term practical exams which are self, peer and teacher assessed. Students regularly have to plan and modify recipes, meals and diets to reflect the nutritional guidelines for a healthy diet while considering their own and family dietary needs and practices.
In year 9, we highlight the impact of diet on dental health, including the benefits of a balanced diet. We spend time examining current research findings in terms of dental health, such as the NHS statistics, and often critically reflect and debate headlines from news articles. We watch clips from TV programmes such as embarrassing bodies and try to empathise and understand the reasons why people may engage in unhealthy behaviours that can be detrimental to health.
As one in 10 young people between the ages of 5-16 have a diagnosable mental health disorder we are also concerned about mental health promotion. In the year 9 scheme of work we dedicate two lessons to the study of the role of food in mood regulation and foods that can have a positive and negative effect on mental health. Prior, to this pupils spend a week filling in a food and mood diary and reflect on how eating certain foods or perhaps skipping meals such as breakfast can have an impact on their levels of concentration, tiredness and even irritability levels. We encourage pupils to avoid relying on caffeine to get then through the day and to understand the differences between physical hunger and emotional hunger. We encourage students to eat mindfully and often practice this by eating a piece of chocolate in a mindful way; eating it slowly and savoring the taste and textures of food.GCSE students embrace the chance to discuss issues such as the link between diet, self-esteem, body image and confidence while playing an interactive Food, Mood and Health Game. Now and again we open the food room doors to all students to take part in enjoyable and team building activities such as Bake Off competitions and Time to Talk initiatives where pupils drink cups of hot drink while chatting about mental health.
The specification itself allows students to apply health and nutrition messages in a practical and independent way which is often more meaningful. Not only does it ask students to plan, prepare, cook, modify, and create recipes to meet different dietary groups and life stages it also asks them to plan a balanced meal for specific dietary groups such as vegetarian and vegan, coeliac, lactose intolerant and high fibre diets. We often use nutritional ICT programmes which allow students to create recipes and modify them in terms of nutritional content and costing and to create an informative nutritional label to apply to products they make.
The food curriculum also crosses over with the PE curriculum in that we teach students about the basal metabolic rate and physical activity level and their importance in determining energy requirements. We often analysis the dietary habits of sporting heroes and students have an opportunity to reflect on how diet can impact on energy levels and sporting performances such as improving performance and recovering from injuries.
Combined with other subjects such as PE, Science and PSHE, the subject of food lends its self well to the teaching of health and nutritional messages. Students at WGHS are encouraged in an interactive and cross curricular way, where possible to reflect on their health. They are empowered to make informed choices to care for themselves and others which ultimately can help them to achieve their goals in life. Afterall, good health is our real wealth.
Mrs S Oldale Head of Food Technology
Read about our Time to Talk 2016 Day here.