Could you do your taxes on an empty stomach? Of course not, and we can’t expect students to learn critical subjects like science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) without having a nutritious breakfast. Breakfast not only provides essential nutrients to help children learn but this first meal of the day is an opportunity to integrate healthy eating and fun STEM enrichment.
We at the National Girls Collaborative Project think that hands-on STEM learning is the kind of engagement that supports girls pursuing careers in STEM. Inquisitive practices and curious exploration can start at the breakfast table. Our vision at the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) is to bring together organizations committed to informing and encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM in order to create the tipping point for gender equity in STEM professions. In April of 2017, a serendipitous encounter occurred between the NGCP and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Healthier Generation works with schools, companies, community organizations, healthcare professionals and families to transform the conditions and systems that lead to healthier kids.
With both organizations focused on education, a collaboration supporting blended learning quickly blossomed and our “STEM and Wellness: A Powerful Equation for Equity” resource document — produced in partnership with the Afterschool Alliance and the National AfterSchool Association — was created.
Breakfast is science
So what’s so great about breakfast and how does it relate to STEM education?
Breakfast is one of the first opportunities of the day to encourage children (and families) to understand why foods like fruits and vegetables are so important for our bodies. Health is STEM and we need more children educated and empowered to code, grow, think, engineer and construct a healthy thriving world.
A nutritious breakfast helps children focus and retain the information they hear in the classroom. Using mealtimes to help children understand why healthy eating is important is a simple way to start conversations about biology, physiology, cells and energy. A natural next step is integrating project-based learning into breakfast enrichment that gives children an opportunity to experience why science matters and how it can improve our world. We at the NGCP know that hands-on, collaborative and open-ended learning is one of the best ways for really getting kids interested in STEM.
Consider making breakfast preparation a collaborative activity where everyone has a job. Encourage conversations about ingredients, agriculture and nature — prompting kids to look at nutrition labels and critically think about what the numbers mean and where their food comes from.
Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships, Alliance for a Healthier Generation; Erin Hogeboom, Director of Strategic Partnerships, National Girls Collaborative Project, [email protected]