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IMGALTTAG Volume V: Psychology of Eating


Tasty Text: A Study of Culture Through the Foods We Share
Cheree Charmello
Pittsburgh Gifted Center

Tasty Text: A Study of Culture Through the Foods We Share is a writing mini-course that spans several curricular areas by combining writing instruction and process skill awareness with cultural studies and the field of psychological study. During the execution of the course, students will examine cross-cultural ideologies that dictate how people learn to choose, produce, and prepare food and turn their ideas into writing pieces that support district objectives while still allowing for flexibility in the way the students’ ideas are presented.


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Food For Thought?
By Amber H. Dean
Arlington Accelerated Learning Academy

This unit is meant to be an introduction to the many purposes food serves to our bodies, our families and across the world. The aim of this unit is to get students thinking what they eat and how they eat. This unit contains three lessons that may be taught in order or over a school year. These lessons were created with the self-contained classroom in mind. All of the lessons where created for middle school special education students. However, they can be easily adapted for students of different abilities. During this unit, students will be expected to read, write and reflect on their experiences with food.


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Eating: Til Death Do Us Part
Elyse Karpa
Westinghouse High School

This unit is an extension to a basic nutritional unit. It undertakes the task of relating intimate partner relationships with premature death due to heart-related illnesses and disease. This unit will explore the under-lying psychological causes and detrimental effects of harmful relationships to correlate them with the three most common diseases: obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It will challenge the students to reach down into the core psychological and physiological harmful effects of chronic stress due to abuse, and relate them to poor nutritional habits, leading to someone’s death. It is an extension of the basic nutritional unit because it takes basic nutritional information and applies it to the body under chronic stress. The particular stress is within intimate relationships. It can also be added as an extension to a dating/domestic violence unit to illuminate the idea of the physiological harm that stress produces in connection with eating and nutrition.


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Food For Thought
Barbara C. Kengor
Pittsburgh Gifted Center

Food for Thought is a curriculum designed to use food as the primary material in a variety of science experiments and activities. At times the food will be the focus of study and at other times it will be a tool for demonstration. Six foods are presented in the unit: chocolate, corn, milk, apples, cookies and sandwiches. Since food and food products are very accessible, somewhat inexpensive and well known to elementary level students; they are an excellent medium for science experiments and demonstrations. The use of food is a practical and fun way to approach science. The science content of the experiments and activities covers general topics in chemistry biology, and earth science. The process skills addressed in the unit are those involved in the scientific method and experimentation.


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Using the Foodways Lens in Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying
Karen C. Kennedy
Pittsburgh CAPA High School

A relatively new field of literary criticism, called foodways, takes a close look at the foods and the rituals surrounding the act of eating in works of literature. Since eating is something one does (and must do) on a daily basis, a foodways analysis provides a window into a character’s background, social class, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and so on. This approach is limited only by the amount of information an author chooses to include in his work. In some works, such as Ernest Gaines’ novel A Lesson Before Dying, food and eating are used substantially for characterization, plot advancement, and development of theme.

The Southern traditions of food provide layers of information, ranging from recipes that are links to slavery (chitterlings), to special occasions (tea cakes), to home and family (fried chicken), and even Cajun influences (gumbo). Gaines develops this trope further by using food throughout the novel to provide an unspoken but emphatic subtext in most of the pivotal scenes. When Grant refuses his aunt’s dinner, he is stepping outside of her sphere of influence, and she resents it. When Jefferson plunges into the food basket face-first, like a “hog,” the reader feels his misery, intensely. And when Grant and Jefferson share cold gumbo in the dayroom on a table set with a cloth, plates, and utensils, both men have made a breakthrough.

Foodways criticism offers students another method to access layers of meaning within a text. It encourages them, literally, to bring to the table what they already know, and, as such, is a method of high interest and great accessibility for high school students.


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Food, Culture, and Conflict Within The Poisonwood Bible
Kristen Kurzawski
Brashear High School

My unit will focus on Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible. This unit will begin with a research component, then a series of presentations, and move to reading and discussing the novel. The research, presentations, and book discussions will center on food as part of a culture’s identity. After reading this book several times and teaching it earlier this year I realized that many of the conflicts in the book are a result of the characters’ relationship with food. By focusing on culture and food I think my students will begin to understand the complex workings of missionary work, colonialism, and food culture.

This unit is designed for an AP Literature and Composition course, but it could be easily adapted for any senior English course. My students are middle class students who are college bound. While they work hard in class and do the readings, I must be prepared for a certain lack of prior knowledge when they enter my classroom. This unit is designed specifically with the understanding that my students, despite being enrolled in a higher level course, may not have the certain analytical skills or cultural knowledge that one might expect from an AP English student. Therefore, the goal of this unit is to give the students some cultural background on the story, give them the opportunity to research which will aid in their interpretation of the novel, and use the cultural knowledge and research to drive our discussion and work with the novel.


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Ethical and Healthy Food Choices and Its Connection to the Individual
Kimberly McDonald
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School

This unit is designed to be part of an independent after school program/course for a small group of students. Length of unit is based on meeting once a week during the course of a nine week period. Students will voluntarily choose to become part of this group with the intention to examine human eating habits. According to nutritionist Judith Rodriguez, “the term eating habits (or food habits) refers to why and how people eat, which foods they eat, and with whom they eat, as well as the ways people obtain, store, use, and discard food. Individual, social, cultural, religious, economic, environmental, and political factors all influence people’s eat habits” (Rodriguez).

The unit provides an opportunity for high school students to research topics, share findings, and create food diaries with alternative choices relating to special occasion eating. One of our goals will be to look at developing a healthier, morally guided path when making food choices. We will concentrate on examining external and internal influences regarding food choices that people make and the contributing factors to the rise in obesity in America. The overall goal is for students to obtain a clear viewpoint on society’s relationship with food and then implement a constructive change in their own lives based on this knowledge.


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Food and Art: An Appetizing Approach to Art History
Victoria Scoumis
Pittsburgh David B. Oliver High School

The purpose of this curriculum is to introduce one of the National Art Standards known as Historical and Cultural Context to high school Visual Arts students. There are four National Visual Arts Standards recognized in Pittsburgh Public Schools that establishes the foundation of a discipline-based art education. They are (Art) Production, Critical Response, Aesthetics, and of course the one I will be writing about.

Over the years, I have presented most art lessons as my educational training suggested, introduce an artist in reference in connection to the activity. Usually this could mean jumping around in the history of the world or around the globe. One day we talk about an Italian Renaissance painter’s depiction of biblical characters the next day we compare proto realism to the comic strip influences on an American Pop artist.

I imagine it may be difficult for some students to recognize the time differences of a piece of art produced in 1610 to another created in 1960. I propose to sequentially present Art History in my classroom with a flavorful twist. I’m going to connect art to food.

As a result of my decision to participate in another Pittsburgh Teacher’s Institute Seminar, I have chosen to develop a curriculum inspired by the Psychology of Food course offered at Chatham University. I have concluded from this study the quest for food had transformed the course of the world so has it influenced the subject matter (themes) in art. Food acquisitions evolved over the centuries along with the styles and methods of producing art.


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Latin-American Cuisine, Pre-Columbian to Present: A Discussion of the Changing Nature of the Latin American Diet
Amy Davis Troyani
Pittsburgh Allderdice High School

This curriculum unit, designed for the Spanish-language classroom, is a survey of various aspects of Latin American cuisine. Topics include the nature of pre-Columbian cuisine, the changes in Latin American diet after European contact, and the healthfulness of contemporary Latin American food choices.

A student-centered approach to learning is employed. While developing their research skills, students of Spanish make connections between the study of world language and other disciplines, such as archaeology, biology, nutrition, geography, history, and sociology. In addition, they relate the study of the Spanish language to its cultural history.


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Mexico and its Cuisine
Brent E. Watson
Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts

The focus of this curriculum unit, entitled “Mexico and its Cuisine”, will focus on the historical and cultural development of Mexican cuisine. The unit will include, but not be limited to, a discussion of how maize, chocolate, and chilies are an integral part of Mexican cuisine. The Columbian Exchange’s contribution to the Mexican diet will be presented.

The research for this curriculum unit will emphasize how pre-Columbian, Spanish, and a variety of other cuisines have influenced Mexican cuisine. The Aztec diet will be examined in order to illustrate the possible origin of the modern day Mexican cuisine. A deeper look into Spanish cuisine will relate European influence upon Mexican cuisine. Also, French contribution to Mexican cuisine cannot be ignored in the unit.


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Food of the Middle Ages
Janis L. Wnuk
Pittsburgh Allderdice

This unit is designed for senior English classes who are reading Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Since one of the main events in the story involves eating, it is directly related to the action. Students who may wonder what people ate back then, and what the differences were between the social classes’ diets will gain knowledge of these people, their times, and their diets and nutrition.


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Chatham University
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IMGALTTAG Pittsburgh Teachers Institute
Jointly sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and the Pittsburgh Public Schools.
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