Influences and Choices

Physical and Health Education - Grade 8

This unit of inquiry is not a recipe book but rather a launchpad to inspire new BIG IDEAS. We encourage you to use and/or modify one, or several of the BIG IDEAS below. Adapt it to the grade/ ability level of your students.


Enduring Understandings

Our choices and decisions are influenced by the people and environment around us.


Guiding Questions

What are the factors that affect our choices of food and why?


Mind Opening

Choose or devise practices to encourage students to be open to new experiences and ways of thinking in your classroom. For example, the MindUP in-school program.


Discovery and Inspiration:

Launch the Project

Introduce the Theme: Present the Enduring Understanding and Guiding Questions using vocabulary that is appropriate for your grade level.

About Vancouver Biennale: Play a short video.

Create Project Space: Brainstorm ideas to make the project theme visual and visible using bulletin boards, and/or a project corner to share relevant materials and inquiry questions and processes.

Reference Resources:

  Introduction to Sculpture and Public Art Unit Plan for information on how art has evolved over time and the unique experience sculptures and/or public art brings

Vancouver Biennale 2014-2016 Exhibition Theme: Open Borders / Crossroads Vancouver

We, 2008 (Jaume Plensa, Spain) from Vancouver Biennale 2009 – 2011 Exhibition


Learning to Learn:

Art Inquiry

Project an image of We, 2008  and encourage students to explore the art piece at different angles individually and in groups. This Art Inquiry process enables the students to practice observing, describing, interpreting, and sharing visual information and personal experiences. Use the Art Inquiry Worksheet (PDF) to guide and capture their ideas and impressions. Customize or create your own Art Inquiry Worksheet as appropriate for your project and class needs.

Take a walk around the neighborhood of the school or another community, observe the choices of restaurants, food markets, stores and dwelling styles and discuss the social and economic influences on urban life. Through observing the people who pass through the neighborhood and discuss the guiding question on influence of multi-ethnicity.


Shared Insights

• Sharing Art Inquiry Experience: Ask students to share the Art Inquiry Worksheet responses in class.

• Artist Themes – Research: In small groups students rotate between information stations detailing the artist’s life and work. Station topics include: (1) education and training; (2) lifetime of artwork; (2) materials and processes; (3) beliefs and values. At each station, students answer questions and complete a task. For example, at the station “life’s work” students might plot the artist’s various installations on a map of the world.
Artist Themes – Cultural Influences: Identify the characters from the 8 alphabets that We, 2008 is composed of.  Challenge students to name a popular dish from these nations. Refer to these dishes during the inquiry challenges. Facilitate a discussion on how cultural influences such as language, migration, immigration, and multiculturalism can have a permanent impact on the lives of many people, including their personal health and diet. Students can discuss their own personal experiences and other questions that flow from the guiding questions.


Inquiry Challenges

• Taste Bud Challenge: Have students research which part of the tongue is most sensitive when digesting food, how do the enzymes in the saliva alter the taste of food? How are certain parts of the palate are stimulated more with different sensations and tastes? Why we tend to lean towards a certain taste? How do genetics, experience, and history factor into these differences and similarities?

• Social and Cultural Influence: Have students inquire into why they prefer certain foods by researching their ancestry eating habits, available sources of food whilst growing up, and type of cuisine they grew up with. Share these results with the class to engage students in a discussion regarding where, how, and when we grew up and its influence on our eating habits.

• Health Influence: Have students track their daily food consumption using the food chart and compare it to the health standards for that age group. Highlight the highs and lows of each food group and reflect on the choice.

• Tracing Its Source: Have students list favorite types of food (protein, vegetable, starch), and research how the ingredients are made, planted, harvested, genetically modified and/or produced. Discover its impact/harm on animals, ecosystems, or any other forms of living organism during the process of production. Have students reflect on where foods (plants, animals, fruits) come from? What borders have been crossed in the production of food in Canada? The selection of food in the cafeteria? The number of different menus eaten in their home? The selection of fast food options? How has Vancouver become an open borders/crossroads for food?


Student Creations and Taking Action

Have students create a chart to illustrate what factors influence the food choices that students make. The factors to consider may include nutrients, taste, food group, digestion, health, longevity, age, location, availability, feelings and price. Self-Assessment: Are there enough nutrients for their body to function properly? If not, how and what changes can be made? Possible community action is to have students start asking parents/caregivers, store owners, restaurants, or any other food place if they know where their food is coming from, how animals are treated, how food is processed, and shipped, and if the food is Genetically Modified, organic, pesticide free, or non-medicated.



• Teacher and students can reflect on their entire learning process by revisiting the Enduring Understanding and relevant Guiding Questions.

• How did the unit of study open inquiry, create cross–curricular learning opportunities and/or apply learning to real life situations? Has this unit of inquiry changed your opinions, values and world view? In what ways, if any, has it helped you grow as a learner?


Ideas for Cross-Curricular Access

• Mathematics: Have students estimate the amount of physical activity an average Grade 8 student performs daily. Based on that level of activity, calculate the right amount of nutrients and calories needed to maintain and sustain a healthy lifestyle. Connect with P.E. to set physical goals, to measure, and track result.

• Science: Have students correlate human body with physical exercise and its association to viable sources of replenishment. Evaluate the functioning of the human body with intake of alternate foods such as vegetarian instead of a meat diet.

• Social Studies: Have students research and develop a timeline to showcase the dietary changes of the human species from the time period they are studying to the present. What factors in storage, transportation, and preservation have influenced our growth in cross border food supply? Investigate how the human species has evolved from hunters and gatherers of their own food to a consumer society that makes food purchases based on factors such as price and convenience rather than local and seasonal availability.


Written by: Frank Lo, 2013 UBC Secondary School Teacher Candidate Edited by: Jennifer Massoud, Secondary School Teacher

©2013 Vancouver Biennale