Reflection: Student Led Inquiry DESIGN CHALLENGE: Food labels (1 of 2) - Section 3: EXPLORE: Alternative food label designs


When are students' struggles productive?  Redesigning a food label is a complex, open-ended challenge that can frustrate students.  While many students are familiar with food labels currently used, this familiarity can be limiting.  Current food labels bias towards nutritional information and ingredients.  Rarely do food labels contain any information about country of origin, genetic modification, or environmental impact.  Because students have never seen alternatives, they may have trouble developing new ideas.  For whatever reason, food labels are a status quo that many students literally cannot question.  If students have trouble developing new criteria for a food label, they are not engaged in productive struggling.  They are simply struggling. 

One strategy I have found is to start with food instead of food labels and challenge students to design a food label for food that incorporates environmental impact information.  A good start would be to use students' favorite foods from a Have Food, Will Travel activity and then engage in a short cycle of engineering design thinking.  How does this food impact people?  What are the environmental and human health problems that this food might cause?  How can we communicate a more complete picture of the impact of this food to consumers?  What would a food label that communicates this information look like?  When we present our food labels to peers, what works and what does not?  How can we use this feedback to iterate on our food label design?

  When to lead and when to follow
  Student Led Inquiry: When to lead and when to follow
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DESIGN CHALLENGE: Food labels (1 of 2)

Unit 5: Food (biosphere and geosphere)
Lesson 9 of 24

Objective: Students will be able to 1) describe key features of sustainable agriculture; 2) and identify features to add to the current food label that more accurately reflect the costs of food production.

Big Idea: The current food label describes the ingredients and nutritional content of food. How might we redesign the current food label to more accurately capture the total impact of modern food production, especially environmental costs?

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Science, negative externality
  55 minutes
food label
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