sealPurdue News

January 31, 2003

'Professor Popcorn' takes kids on a healthy trip

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Elementary-age children can go "Exploring the Food Guide Pyramid with Professor Popcorn" to learn the value of eating healthy foods, using safe food-handling techniques and making physical activity part of their lifestyle.

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The popular Purdue Extension curriculum has been rewritten and updated and is for sale as a $50 CD that includes about 250 original, full-color illustrations to accompany the 30 lesson plans.

"This is designed for children in grades 1-6," said Donna Vandergraff, the Extension specialist in the Department of Foods and Nutrition who reviewed and edited the curriculum. "There are five lessons for each grade, and each grade examines the common themes of exploring the Food Guide Pyramid through the food groups, learning about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and learning the Fight BAC! concepts of clean, separate, cook, and chill. It's also important to note that physical activity is included in each lesson."

The new version of "Exploring the Food Guide Pyramid with Professor Popcorn" provides unique activities for each grade, although the concepts are basically the same, so that a student could begin the series in the first grade and be taught annually through sixth grade. Conversely, the concepts can be taught thoroughly to just one grade.

Each of the 30 lessons includes a lesson plan, dozens of color visuals, nutrition and food safety activities, recipes, a physical activity and a take-home handout. Each lesson plan also lists the specific Indiana Department of Education academic standards for science and health that the lesson meets.

A sample lesson is available on the Web. The site also has an order form and more information about the curriculum.

The original "Professor Popcorn" debuted in 1993 as a three-ring binder packed with lesson plans for grades 1-9. During the succeeding decade, thousands of Indiana schoolchildren and thousands more across the country explored the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid with the professor.

Vandergraff said the new curriculum relies on the concept of "illustrated talks."

"These discussions use the lively, full-color visuals to convey the concepts of nutrition, food safety and physical activity," she said.

"The lessons can be taught in a variety of locations, ranging from the most modern classroom to a grassy spot under a tree. Once the prep work is finished, the talks can be conducted without any need for overheads, TV monitors, computers or electricity."

Extension services in 25 states have purchased copies of the curriculum, and it is being taught at numerous locations in Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.

In Indiana, about 85 Extension educators from counties across the state are trained to teach the lessons themselves or to teach others how to present the program. Contact the Purdue Extension office in your county to find out if the program is being offered locally.

The curriculum was developed jointly by Purdue University's Department of 4-H Youth Development and the School of Consumer and Family Sciences. Beth Switzer of Indianapolis is the author, and Geoff Smith of Dayton Ohio, drew the illustrations.

The CD costs $50, which includes postage and handling. Indiana residents should place their order through the Extension office in their county. Out-of-state customers can order at: Ag Communication Media Distribution Center, 231 S. University St., West Lafayette, IN 47907-2064; (765) 494-6794 or 888-EXT-INFO (398-4636); (e-mail); or (765) 496-1540 (fax).

Writer: Frank J. Koontz, (765) 496-2384,

Source: Donna Vandergraff, (765) 494-8538,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes,;

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: March is "National Nutrition Month," a nutrition education campaign sponsored annually for the past 30 years by the American Dietetic Association. For review copies of the CD, contact Frank Koontz at Purdue Agricultural Communication, (765) 496-2384,

"Professor Popcorn" is the tour guide for a new Purdue Extension curriculum that takes elementary-age children on a visit to the Food Guide Pyramid. "Exploring the Food Guide Pyramid with Professor Popcorn" teaches youngsters about healthy foods, food safety and the value of physical activity. (Purdue Extension Illustration/Geoff Smith)

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