- Be introduced to the concept of Energy Balance.
- Generate ideas about where energy comes from and how it is used.
- Share examples of their own Energy In and Energy Out.
- Several beanbags
- "What is Energy Balance" student activity sheet
- Weekly lunch menu and copies of magazines/newspapers (optional)
The young people in your class are already beginning to make many important health-related decisions. Giving them tools, information and confidence to make those decisions is an important part of contributing to their active, healthy lifestyle. One set of tools you can give them relates to their Energy Balance. Energy Balance is the balance of calories consumed from foods and beverages (Energy In) with calories burned from physical activity (like walking, climbing stairs, playing sports or playing at recess playing), activities of daily living (like getting dressed, eating, cleaning your room, raking leaves or reading) and basic body processes, like thinking and sleeping (Energy Out). When we maintain Energy Balance over time, it can contribute to our health in positive ways.
Human beings need energy to survive to breathe, move, pump blood, and think and they get this energy from calories in foods and beverages. When a food or beverage contains 100 calories, that is a way of describing how much energy our body gets from eating or drinking it. How many calories we need each day depends on many things: our gender, height, weight, age, and activity level among them. The average school age child needs between 1,600 and 2,500 calories each day. That energy is then used (burned) by the activities we do each day and the basic body processes we need to survive. These include sleeping, thinking, pumping blood, etc.
Maintaining balance between our Energy In and Energy Out contributes to an active, healthy lifestyle in many ways. Adults often focus on weight gain or loss. (If we consume more calories than we burn, we gain weight. If we burn more calories than we consume, we lose weight.) For children, however, the focus should be about having enough energy to do all the things they want to do and to grow up strong and healthy; to practice balance, variety and moderation in their diet; and to be physically active for 60 minutes each day.
Our Energy In and our Energy Out don't have to balance exactly every day, but our goal should be to maintain balance over time. Energy balance in children happens when the amount of Energy In and Energy Out supports "normal growth and development" without promoting excess weight gain. In other words, children need to gain some weight as part of their normal growth and development so an exact 1:1 ratio of Energy In and Energy Out is not the goal. What is important for them to understand is the importance of balancing their daily calorie requirements with regular physical activity. Estimated calorie requirements by age and activity level can be found at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/downloads/calreqtips.pdf
Note: Before beginning the lesson, clear a space where students can move around.
- Divide students into small groups. Hand each group a beanbag and challenge them, one student
at a time, to walk from one side of the room to the other while keeping the beanbag on their head! Have students try the exercise a few times. If they have trouble, encourage them to try something different like walking faster or slower, raising their hands to their sides, or focusing on something near the finish line. For an extra challenge, ask students to try the exercise with their eyes closed.
- What did students need in order to keep the beanbag on their heads? The answer is balance!
- Poll students to learn what they did to stay balanced. Everyone may have a different way of keeping balanced, and that's okay! Ask students for examples of other things that can be balanced. A seesaw or a scale may be familiar to students.
- Ask students if they know other ways their bodies can stay balanced that relate to what they eat and drink, and how active they are. One way is by balancing their energy. Ask students if they know what energy is. Energy is what they need to do all the things they like to do like play, run, jump, and even breathe. But where does that energy come? When we eat or drink, energy goes into our body from foods and beverages. That's called, "Energy In." When we run, draw or even breathe, that uses energy and that's called, "Energy Out."
- Put a T-chart on the board with Energy In on top of the left column and Energy Out on top of the right column. Ask students to name foods and beverages they have eaten today. List them on the left side of the chart. Then ask them to list activities they have done today. This can include walking, eating, or playing with friends. List those examples on the right side of the chart.
- Put the words, "Energy Balance" on top of the T-Chart. Now that they know about Energy In and Energy Out, ask students to guess what the term, "Energy Balance" means and how we can get it. Share information about Energy Balance from the Instant Expert section. Explain to students that Energy In and Energy Out does not have to balance perfectly every day, but we should try to keep our energy balanced over time.
- Distribute the "What is Energy Balance" activity sheet. Direct students to draw pictures of their favorite foods and beverages on the left side of the scale and their favorite activities on the right.
- Finally have each student use their drawing to complete the following sentence. I get Energy in from ________________ (could be a specific food or beverage, or a category) and I use that energy by doing _________________ (could be any activity. That's called Energy Balance!
- Have students review the weekly lunch menu and circle three things they'd like to eat or drink to get their Energy In. Then have them look through magazines or newspapers to find pictures of something they'd like to do or try to balance that Energy In with Energy Out!
Have students draw a picture or write a paragraph for the school or community newspaper that illustrates Energy Balance.