By: Inés Cazenave and Karen Roberts
In 5th year one of the topics tackled in the area of Science is Nutrition. Our study on Nutrition became much more significant when we linked it to an authentic need of an aboriginal community in Yacuy, Salta who is struggling with the problem of infant malnutrition.
Firstly, we had a meeting with Diego Bustamante before he travelled to Salta to settle among the community and start his fight against malnutrition through an entity called Asociacion Civil Franciscana Pata Pila, (Pata Pila is the Guarani translation of Bare feet). He told us about the community and we asked him how we could help; what material or products the children could make that would be useful to the programme. We also learnt about the needs of the community from the institutional video and from sister Cecilia, a franciscan nun totally devoted to help the people in need, who came to our school to talk to the children and describe the reality of the people in the community: their needs, their habits and how the problem of malnutrition was not totally due to lack of food or money, but also responded to their poor level of education.
The children were moved by what they saw and heard and understood immediately that they could help; that by learning with responsibility they could teach others and start creating a significant change. We had a clear primary objective in terms of information and knowledge: to make sure they learnt what a healthy diet implied, and to eventually create the habit of eating healthy. However, there was a higher objective: developing empathy; for in order to transmit the facts meaningfully they necessarily had to adapt their messages to the level of understanding of the audience and of course in a language they could speak: the final products had to be in Spanish.
The first obstacle the students had to tackle was to learn about nutrition in order to speak with facts. To address this, the children worked in teams in stations and wrote down their findings in a web. At the same time, a google doc was available for them to jot down ideas of what information could be useful for the Pata Pila community. Only once they considered themselves experts in the topic, could they think about meaningful ways of helping.
A series of different kinds of activities were presented to students in a Hopscotch strategy. The first three activities were compulsory. These
included a tutorial where they had to explain how to make a water filter with materials people could find even in their precarious living areas; a radio message which would be played in the local radio giving advice on how to eat healthy; and a food graphic created by themselves stating what foods were healthier and should be eaten more. After that, the children had to choose either to write a song which could also be played in the local radio or create a video clip which would be played every Friday when the asosiación civil franciscana Pata Pila showed movies to the local kids. The next activity was again compulsory and consisted of making placemats for the family where they could get some more information about how to eat healthy. From the activities that followed, students had to choose to make magnets that the families could keep on the fridge or gas container with useful information on healthy eating or create a poster or brochure with useful information on healthy eating which could be used in informative meetings the nutritionist of the community held. The last activity was optional and required them to design a useful object for the community to use.
Students carried out all the activities with lots of motivation and never losing sight of why they were doing it. They came up with very creative ways of presenting their work bearing in mind that the community would have to be inspired to change their diet into a healthy one.
Here are some of the final products:
Tutorials to create a water filter:
The reception of material in Yacuy was really moving. Diego was able to send us some pictures of the families with the products the students had made. The children beamed with pride when they heard that the mothers who attend the Nutrition programme said,
“Qué buen trabajo hicieron los chicos!”
“Todos se merecen un diez!”
“Muchas gracias a todos!”
Undoubtedly, this project overpassed all our expectations. The children learnt all about Nutrition because of the project at hand and worked with great enthusiasm, as their final products had a real audience and a most important objective. They were highly motivated and developed empathy for those in need. Furthermore, they were thrilled to see their material given out to the people and to hear the positive feedback from the community. A total success in every way.
This is what our students had to say:
“I was motivated because I always liked helping people or communities and I want to keep on doing it” – Upi
“ I was motivated to help the community because they don’t have a good nutrition and they don’t spend their money well.” -Tomi
“I was motivated because those kids gave me empathy, they were poor and I wanted to help them.” – Nacho
“I learnt how important it is to eat healthy and to have a healthy body.”- Martu
“ I learnt that helping others makes you feel nice and very happy” – Mila
“ I learnt lots of Nutrition facts and a little bit of how with help you can change the future” – Lau
“I learnt that we can teach and learn at the same time”- Clara
“ I was motivated because when I will be an adult I want to be helpful with the poor so this is a start” – Mica