Let Popeye do the teaching!

Sriparna Tamhane

Teaching nutrition to very young children can become dry and boring unless one brings in the information through poems, songs, skits, art, and other enjoyable activities that children take to more easily.

As a teacher, I made an attempt to teach my students about nutrition through cartoons. Children are often greatly influenced by familiar cartoon characters. So, while teaching nutrition, I asked my students to think of cartoon characters that were associated with specific foods and could hence promote them for their nutritional value. In no time and with great excitement, the children came up with an impressive list of characters and the foods they could possibly promote.

Tom and Jerry could certainly promote milk and cheese, ensuring a healthy dose of protein and calcium. Mickey Mouse could also join them in singing the popular song, “piyo glassful doodh”!

Everyone knows that Bugs Bunny’s favourite treat is carrots! While munching on his carrot, Bugs could explain how vitamin A is good for the eyes. And if you ever wondered how he got so clever, it’s thanks to the vitamin B6 found in the carrots.

I doubt anyone has seen Popeye rise to a challenge without getting “strength” from his beloved spinach. Popeye would be the right cartoon to talk about spinach being a source of iron – much needed for carrying oxygen from the lungs to our cells, muscles, and organs. Maybe his theme song “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man” could be changed to “I’m Popeye the Spinach Man”!

Garfield loves his lasagna and pizza! And what better way to introduce your students to carbohydrates and “junk” food? It’s no wonder that Garfi eld is over-weight, given how he relishes his pizza.

Super Goof (Goofy’s superhero alter ego) would vouch for the protein and vitamins that a handful of his favourite – peanuts – provide.

When it’s time for something to eat, Winnie the Pooh always finds something sweet! As a bear with a serious honey addiction, Winnie the Pooh could definitely reiterate the fact that honey is the ‘miracle’ food to adopt. This “liquid gold” boosts energy, builds immunity, is a natural remedy for many ailments, and is full of many vitamins and minerals!

Before I knew it, the children were busy drawing their favourite cartoons promoting one food item that provided one or more nutrients, captured in little speech bubbles. They enjoyed the application of what was otherwise dry information.

They also took the pro-active step of displaying their creation in the school dining room, where they hoped, many other young children would be attracted to the colourful cartoons and learn about nutrients, quite incidentally! The engagement with the topic in an enjoyable manner helped them remember the facts for a long time.

Jingle all the way!

Children tend to forget facts but they
rarely forget songs!
Here is a song that had been created
to teach nutrition. It can be sung to the
tune of the popular English song “O my
darling Clementine” or any other tune
that you might want to use.

Eat your food right
Eat your food right
Eat your food right
Everyday. (2)

Carbs come from
Carbs come from
Carbs come from cereals
Carbs give us
Carbs give us
Carbs give us energy.

Protein comes from
Protein comes from
Protein comes from fish and meat.
Protein helps us grow
Protein helps us grow
Protein helps us grow tall and strong.

Vitamins come from
Vitamins come from
Vitamins come from vegetables
Vitamins help us
Vitamins help us
Vitamins help us fight the germs.

Calcium comes from
Calcium comes from
Calcium comes from milk and curd
Calcium builds strong
Calcium builds strong
Calcium builds strong teeth and bones!

The author is a resource person at the University Resource Centre, Azim Premji University. She has taught English and Social Studies in the J. Krishnamurti Foundation schools for 15 years. She has also conducted enrichment workshops for teachers, developed curriculum and created learning resources for teachers and students. She can be reached at sriparna.newleaf@gmail.com..