Tag Archives: weight

Vaccinating kids against sugary drink addiction

One out of three kids these days is overweight or obese, and consumption of drinks that have sugar is likely a big part of why, especially because some parents think such drinks are healthy. Sugar drinks also cause tooth decay (I know, big surprise there), and might even cause little kids to be aggressive. So I got to wondering what public schools are actually doing to educate kids about the sugar content of beverages. The answer: not a whole lot, at least from a cursory search of the internet.

So here’s the class activity I think all kindergarten classes should do: construct a poster for the hallway or classroom wall that visually displays how much sugar is hidden in common beverages. Here’s an example:

Sugar in drinksThis project would fit in perfectly with most state standards (for example, see page 10 in Health Education Content Standards for California Public Schools). And because it includes numbers (of teaspoons), teachers can use the poster content to visually drive discussions about addition and subtraction. If this poster was done in a fun way, the experience might vaccinate kids against over-consumption of sugary drinks for the remainder of their lives. The parallel to brushing teeth might be appropriate: you teach kids how to do it even though the chemistry of decay is beyond their understanding. If you don’t brush and floss, you’ll lose your teeth. That’s a lesson best taught when really young.

There are lots of ways to make the poster, but what I like about the one above is that water (no sugar) and plain milk (contains lactose … which is a sugar) are included. There should also be a sampling of common juices (apple, orange, e.g.) because they are loaded with sugar. And just for scale, it might be good to show how many teaspoons of sugar are in a typical bag of candy (e.g., Skittles).

Poster titles matter here, just like they do at a scientific meeting, in that they can provide a take-home message. “Rethink your drink” is a popular title (it rhymes), but I prefer something that confronts the point more directly. Here are some ideas: “Don’t drink dessert all day”, “Don’t drink your dessert”, or “Sugary drinks are candy drinks”. If snark is allowed in your district, then something like, “Sugary drinks are a sweet way to gain weight and rot teeth!” The idea is to be direct and memorable and to not shy away from the point: sugary drinks can (and do!) make kids fat.

If you want some background information relevant to lesson plans on sugar for K-3 levels, here are some resources from BrainPOP. If you’re looking for more examples of posters, here’s a Pinterest board where I collect them:

Pinterest board Educating kindergartners about sugary drinks on Pinterest.

Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Graphic design, Health, Photography, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Junk food vending machines in public schools

I’m amazed that we are well into 2014 and schools can still sell junk food to students in vending machines. Below are four photographs just in case you haven’t been to school recently.  In first, some breakfast cereals: Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Krispies, and Apple Jacks, with 37%, 40%, and 43% sugar, respectively.  I’m sure that the Vending Machine Committee for this school decided that if they avoided Kellogg’s Honey Smacks (55.6% sugar), they could argue that the actual offerings are “healthier options.”  Photographs 2 and 3 show candy and chips.  Photograph 4 is for viewers interested in obesity among minorities.

In Pennsylvania (where photographs were taken), 15.9% of high school students are overweight.  11.8% of adolescents are obese.  With rates that high, many students don’t even need healthier forms of calories — they need to stop snacking.  Vending machines promote snacking.

Colin Purrington Photography: Obesity &emdash; junk-food-vending

Colin Purrington Photography: Obesity &emdash; public-school-vending-machine-radnor

Colin Purrington Photography: Obesity &emdash; junk-food-school-vending-machine

Colin Purrington Photography: Obesity &emdash; public-school-vending-machines

Posted in Biology, Education, Food, Graphic design, Photography, Science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugared beverages and obesity

Like everyone else, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying New York’s recent proposal for banning supersized containers of sugared beverages. Unlikely to pass, but nice to think about how to affect change somehow, since the tax-paying public ends up paying for the medical consequences of other people’s obesity.  Wish we could try to following:

1.  Somehow mandate that sugared sodas cost 25% more than diet options; and that water should be free (OK, you can charge for the cup).

2. Mark the calorie counts on the side of the supersized versions so that people have a visual sense of how many calories are contained. Diet drinks would come with their caloric values, too (zero, at least darn close to zero).

3.  Mandate funny or gross labels like those that are on packages of cigarettes. Writing, “excess calories cause weight gain,” over and over again is clearly a waste of ink and doesn’t seem to reach your average sugar fan. Need something interesting or irreverent.

My quick sketches of #2-3 are below, on a typical large beverage (7-11’s Double Gulp is 64 oz, by the way).  And, yes, I know that sugared drinks vary in calorie content, that hamburgers vary in calorie content, and that not all people find jiggly fat repulsive.

Warning labels for sugared beverages

 

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Example of bad scientific poster

When I give lectures on poster design, I show examples of horrific posters I’ve found on the internet. To be honest, almost all posters on the internet are horrific, so all I really have to do is choose a few. But I fear that someday the author of a poster I’m critiquing is going to be in the audience, in the front row, and carrying a concealed weapon, so I thought it was time to construct my own bad poster. The result is, “Pigs in space: effect of zero gravity and ad libitum feeding on weight gain in Cavia porcellus.” I’m especially ashamed of the bad logos, which I designed so as not to anger actual entities like NSF, SpaceX, and the Corn Refiners Association. A partial list of why the poster is awful is below the image.

Example of bad scientific poster (copyright colin purrington)

Why this is a terrible poster:

  1. Too much text.
  2. Background image is distracting, wastes ink.
  3. Text box backgrounds are dark, which makes text hard to read (and wastes ink).
  4. Text box backgrounds are all different colors, for no reason (thus annoying).
  5. Text boxes are different widths (and annoying).
  6. Text boxes not separated from each other by pleasing “white” space.
  7. Text box edges not aligned, which is annoying.
  8. Text justified, which causes bad inter-word spacing. Also makes reading harder (brain uses jaggedness of left-justified text).
  9. Logos are pretentious (true of any logo).
  10. Logos crowd the title.
  11. Title perspective is annoying (unless you like Star Wars).
  12. Title is in all caps, which is harder to read and obscures Latin name).
  13. Title is italicized, which obscures Latin name.
  14. Author font and color is annoying (comic sans should be reserved for comic books).
  15. Author font color is too loud relative to other text.
  16. Results are presented in sentences instead of visually with charts.
  17. Section headers have more than one type of formatting (big font, bolded, italicized, underlined, and colored — ack!).  Choose one. [Note: I forgot to number the sections…that would have been even worse.]
  18. Terrible graphic of Guinea pig on scale. Need one of the actual set up (pigs eating while weightless, for example). [UPDATE: Or should have bribed Jeff at joegp.com, who apparently has a comic series about Guinea pigs in space suits. Awesome]
  19. Inclusion of an Abstract gobbles up space needlessly. Abstract section should be banned from posters.
  20. Plus the science is terrible! (Bad science is correlated with bad graphic design, by the way.)

I encourage teachers to print the poster and hang in a hallway a month prior to when students’ posters are due. The printable PDF is on my “Designing conference posters” page if you want to take me up on this suggestion.

Believe it or not, the poster got published in the journal Nature. And yes, that street number is a horrific gravity reference. Sorry.

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