University of Illinois Extension

Teacher's Guide

Teacher's Guide - Food Fun from Apples to Zucchini - University of Illinois Extension

Welcome to Food Fun from Apples to Zucchini. This website has been designed for use by elementary grades, but can be adapted and modified by adding activities and study skills appropriate for that grade level.

This program is interdisciplinary and is designed to introduce students to produce they may not be familiar with by talking a little bit about fun facts and nutritional information. The website will also help to enhance students’ math, reading, writing, and creative arts skills.

This website is an excellent resource to use with the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable programs as well as other childhood obesity programs.

Throughout the website, letters of the alphabet have been used to introduce various produce. The characters used in the website may not portray what the item actually looks like so we have taken the produce items "out of costume" and put them in the Food Gallery.

Here are several ideas for activities to enhance your lesson.

Tasting Activities

  • To help students learn about each food in this website, you might have samples of each food available. Or go to the grocery store and conduct a scavenger hunt looking for several of the foods.
  • If you have a personal, school, or community garden, you might want to grow some of these foods. The students can learn about seeds, transplants, how to care for plants, where foods come from and how to harvest food. Also, visit Where in the World Does Your Food Come From website to learn more about the history of various foods.
  • Tasting food or making special snacks or dishes with the foods can be a very instructive activity. Some things to try:
    • Apple slices with caramel dip or peanut butter.
    • Cauliflower, broccoli and carrot slices with dill dip.
    • Try fig cookies with milk.
    • Mix several varieties of lettuces to create a salad.
    • Make lemonade or lemon shake-ups.
    • Make a fruit salad using watermelon, apples, mango, pineapple, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe, and nectarines.
    • Make fruit kabobs. Choose the students’ favorite fruits and place them on a stick. Also have new fruits for the student to try on their kabobs. For a special treat, drizzle caramel or chocolate over the fruit.
  • Ask your class which foods they have never tried. Then plan to sample these foods over the course of the unit.
  • Are there foods that are served during special occasions? Find out why the foods are associated with these special times.
  • Fruits and vegetables often look strange, but are very tasty. Go to the store, find the most unusual looking item you can find. Prepare it for sampling for the students. Then ask them to draw what they think it looked like before being prepared and cut up. Which drawing is the closest? Or you can prepare a food in a different way, such as cubed apples versus apple slices.

Shopping Activities

  • Buy a head of lettuce, a bag of lettuce, and unbagged loose lettuce. Compare prices, freshness, taste and weights. Which is the best buy?
  • How many different kinds of apples can be found in a local grocery store or market? Describe what makes them different – size, shape, color, and taste.
  • Have a contest for the students to bring in the strangest fruit or vegetable that they can find at the local market. Do research on what it is, where it comes from, why it is there, how it is used, and how is it prepared.
  • Ask the students to decide which item is the weirdest. You can even have the “Weirdest Fruit or Vegetable of the Week.”
  • Some foods are sold in different ways, such as canned, frozen, dried or fresh. Your task, if you choose, is to find out how many ways the fruit or vegetable is offered. Why are they offered all of these ways? How are they used? As an example, peas can be found fresh, frozen, dried or canned.
  • What’s in a can of fruit cocktail? Separate out all of the different kinds of fruits. Then put them in alphabetical order.

 Science Activities

  • Grow a tropical fruit. Many of the tropical fruits such as papaya, oranges, mango, and lemons are grown from seed. Plant a seed and watch it grow into an attractive plant for the classroom. Plant it early in the school year, so you will have ample time for it to germinate and grow. What you will get is a plant for the class room, but it will not bear fruit.
  • You can plant the top of a pineapple by placing it in potting soil. It will root and give you an attractive classroom plant.
  • Take the tops off carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes and place them on a pebble or sand-filled tray of water. Keep them watered and watch the tops grow into a leafy arrangement.
  • Sweet potatoes will provide you an excellent vine to trail around your sunniest window.
  • Dill is easily grown from seed in the classroom. Use a container filled with potting soil to grow a bouquet of dill.
  • Set up a table with place cards of the various fruit, vegetables, and herbs that were studied. Then on another table have samples of these foods. Ask the students to “sort” these foods, by placing them in front of the place card names. Their reward will be a fruit or vegetable snack.

Language Arts Activities

  • Have the students write a short story about their favorite fruit or vegetable.
  • Ask the students to write a TV commercial to sell their favorite fruit or vegetable to their classmates.
  • Create a bumper sticker for a bicycle or skateboard about healthy snacks.
  • Ask the students to make a drawing of all the fruits and vegetables they can think of that are orange, purple, green, red, white and yellow.

Creative Arts Activities

  • Make posters, greeting cards, gift tags, wrapping paper, or murals by using vegetables or fruits to make prints. Slice the produce and dip it in tempera paint and then use the food to make a print. Okra, star fruit, peppers, artichokes, cucumbers, apples, rutabagas, and potatoes all work well.
  • Take play clay and have the students sculpt vegetables or fruits. Then place everyone’s work in a basket or dish to display.
  • Create bulletin boards using one of the following themes:
    • The ABC's of Food
    • Healthy Snacks for Healthy Kids
    • Our Produce Garden
    • A Rainbow of Fruits and Veggies

Activity Sheets

  • Use the activity sheets to re-enforce the concepts.

Each food can be printed out and used as a coloring page or the students can color online. After the students have colored all of the pages, assemble them into a book. Each student can do a book or take a page and the book can be a class project.

If you complete the online request form, we will send you a poster for your classroom featuring several of the characters from our Schools Online websites.

And if you have a question, send it to us by clicking here.

We always look forward to hearing from teachers. Let us know if this site was useful to you and your students.