My final project has been the build up of many conversations and projects that I have been working on within this class and on my own. I am an educator who cares about the students well being from an academic and nutritional standpoint. This board game has been created in response to the school lunches I have seen in the United States public school system. The school lunches are filled with processed food that is full of sugar, sodium, and preservatives. As a substitute teacher, I have watched my students come into class with a school breakfast in the form of a cinnamon roll and milk. Their sugar spikes high and drops low within an hour, and they can hardly focus on the material we are learning in class. I have seen the same result with many students from school provided lunches and the impact it is having on their education.
The image above is of an average public school lunch. For the first time in over 30 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) saw real change in 2010 with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act 2010. First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned for this act. It increased the number of students eligible for school meals. In many schools it also made the portions smaller, with less sodium and sugar. There has been backlash from kids saying they are hungry. The photo above is an image posted on social media by a student who was not happy with their lunch. The act does not guarantee healthier food for the students, in some ways it means less food as less food means less sugar and sodium. There has been new limits put in place regarding milk. The act limits milk served to nonfat flavored milk or 1% white milk. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is also increasing water accessible for kids during lunch. Overall the bill is trying to help improve school lunches, but there is still much work to be done.
The United States is passionate about milk. Our school breakfast and lunch programs provide milk with each meal. In France, students are provided orange juice, apple juice or milk for breakfast. During lunch in France, the only drink provided and available is water. The dairy industry’s contract with public schools allows for a great deal of production and a constant consumer.
“Milk is the number one source of nine essential nutrients in the diets of America’s children and adolescents.” – National Dairy Council
“Milk, because of its unique nutrient profile has been a fundamental component of the school meal policy development every step of the way.” – National Dairy Council
Both of these quotes push for the necessity of dairy milk. It has “essential nutrients” and is a “fundamental component” to the US school lunches. I never questioned milk’s nutritional facts until after I watched a TED Talk with Jamie Oliver. He spoke about the amount of sugar that is found in dairy milk. Each day children are consuming this milk and drinking milk that has been sweetened with sugar to make kids like it more.
This data shocked and frustrated me but also put me into action. I became a part of the #RealSchoolFood movement. I started researching how we as a society could get better food into our schools for our students. I appreciate the work Chef Ann is doing through her creation of practical and accessible recipes for schools to use for the students.
After this research, outreach, and personal shift in my own eating habits, I wanted to create a project that could reach the students, I want to help educate. Twitter and other forms of social media work well for certain demographics and age groups, but I want to speak directly to the students. Snack Track is a board game to help educate children and adults about the food they eat.
Educating children comes in several forms and in various styles. A board game allows someone to critically think about the situation their player is in and problem solve to get themselves moving forward in the game. “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we create them” (Albert Einstein). There has been a great deal of research put into the benefits of using games for educating children. Games allow for a “transfer of learning from game-playing environments to other environments” (Moursund, 7). The US educational system is responsible for teaching children the basics in many subjects while also educating them on social skills that are needed for everyday life.
This board game would be a great tool in elementary school classrooms. It would be a break from the traditional book exercises to an environment that opens up a child’s thinking from another angle. “Games don’t need to be overtly academic to be educational, however. Just by virtue of playing them, board games can teach important social skills, such as communicating verbally, sharing, waiting, taking turns, and enjoying interaction with others” (Scholastic). I have spoken to educators and many agree with the statement scholastic stated. A Health teacher stated that board games have the ability in advancing students reading, math, understanding of shapes, and color skills within games. An English teaching assistant shared that her students were able to solidify concepts they already taught but may not have reached all students. Not all students learn the same way and board games open up a new lens to material. Students can also learn new vocabulary through games and conversation with the other players. Allowing for flexibility in an educational environment opens learning barriers.
Snack Track board game is designed to help educate people about the food they eat and the choices they make every day in regards to food. The board is designed to allow the players to move through the path, moving forwards and sometimes backwards according to the circumstances they have encountered. There are six color tiles that will be the path/road that the player will follow to reach the end. Each color represents one of the locations on the board. These locations are places that the children and parents alike will encounter in their normal lives. Some may be daily occurrences, while others may be once a week or every other week. The game is to teach families about the food they eat, buy, and share. It will educate about allergies, diseases, vegan, ½ the Fat, 1/3 the Calories, non-GMO, “natural”, “healthy”, organic, and other aspects of the food world. There will be fun facts about food and an overall growing understanding of positive and negative impacts on one’s health if one eats a certain food often.
The hope is that this game will be playful and create a space to help educate and change the culture of food in the United States and one day other countries. The game will teach about the nutritional value of different food items. Hopefully this information will help families make better choices for themselves.
Logistics of the board game:
- Target age: 4+
- Number of Players: 2-6
- Length of Time: 40-55 minutes
- Each color associates with a location
- One die will be used to advance the players
- Colors and Locations:
- Red: Drive Thru
- Orange: School
- Green: Farmers Market
- Blue: Home
- Yellow: Grandma’s House
- Purple: Grocery Store
- Passage Ways: the ability to move through the path quicker and bypass some blocks.
Each color is associated with a location and the players will grab the colored card associated with their space. Above are some of the characters profiles, but I hope that if the owners of the game want to, they will be able to design their own character.
Below are some examples of cards the players will encounter as they land on different colored spaces. The goal is to educate the player on the food found in these locations. Each card has a plus or minus and sometimes +/- in the top right corner. The number indicates if the player will move forward or backwards from that location. The first player to get to Grandma’s colorful doormat will win the game.
I hope to see this game in the homes of families and in classrooms where the conversation about healthy eating and food can be opened and shared.