Authors as Published

Elena Serrano, Associate Professor, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise. (


Age    Children 7-10X Children 11-14     Mixed AgesVirginia Standards of Learning
English 3.1, 3.2, 3.8, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2, 6.1, 6.2, 7.1, 7.2, 8.6
Health 3.1, 3.2, 4.4, 5.1, 5.2, 6.2, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 8.3
Math 3.8, 4.7, 5.3, 7.3, 7.4, 7.8
SettingX   Classroom    Camp  Either
Location   OutsideX Indoors     Either

Project Skill: Learning about calories used in different activities.

Success Indicators: As a result of this activity, students will be able to:

  • Understand that different activities burn different amounts of calories
  • Explain why different activities burn different amounts of calories

Life Skills: Record-keeping, Marketable skills, Healthy lifestyle choices

Preparation time: gather supplies


  • Add It Up (VCE publication 348-240)
  • Calorie Chemistry (VCE publication 348-241)
  • Kids Activity Plate poster or Move It!
  • Kids Activity Plate (VCE publication 348-097)

Optional Handouts:

  • Move It! Diary
  • Possible: Action Kid’s Activity Analysis (VCE publication 348-885)
  • Warm up Activities (VCE publication 348-886)
  • Power up Activities (VCE publication 348-894)


  1. Give Calorie Chemistry handouts to the students. Before they read them, ask them to tell you what they consider a calorie.
  2. Ask each child to read the handout and consider the questions shown on the handout. Why do some people burn more calories than others?
  3. Then, as a class, examine the calorie charts and discuss the different types of activities and the different number of calories that can be burned doing each. Talk about why one activity burns more calories than another and why some physical activities may be better than others.
  4. Show the Kids Activity Plate poster or Move It!
  5. Alone, or in small groups, have the children compare the calories burned for each Activity with the location of the activity in the activity Plate. Where are the activities that burn fewer calories found? What about more?
  6. Give the students the Add It Up publication for them to take home and share with their families.
  7. Discuss the questions, reinforcing the concept of a calorie, the types of physical activities that burn calories, and why some activities burn more calories than others. Then talk about how they should get at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity.
  8. Play a physical game! (See Game Ideas)


  • Older children may be able to record their own activities for a day, using Move It! Diary or the Action Kid’s Activity Analysis.

Other Ideas:

  • Combine this lesson with a math lesson. Ask students to calculate how many calories they would burn doing a certain activity for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes. Or, figure out how many minutes they would have to do an activity to burn 1,000 calories, 10,000 calories, or even a million calories. You can also add other computations, such as how long it would take to walk 10 miles if you walked 8 miles per hour. Follow this activity with something physical. Choose an option from the list of games on the last page.
  • Refer to the Smart Snacks lesson and the Label Literacy handout. Compare the calories in common food and drink products to those burned by different activities. For example, ask the students to determine how many minutes they would have to bike, do school work, or a job to burn off a can of soda.
  • Calorie Chemistry may be too difficult to cover with younger children. In that case, use only the Add It Up handout, focusing on adding up the minutes of physical activity throughout the day.


  • Which activities burn the most calories? Which activities burn the fewest?
  • Which activities make you the most tired (or make you tired the fastest)?
  • How many minutes did you add up?


  • Why do you think that the activities that make you the most tired also burn the most calories?
  • Did it surprise you that some of these activities burn so many/so few calories?
  • Why do adults burn more calories than kids? men (usually) more than women?
  • How did you do when you added it up? Were you under? over?


  • Why do you think your parents ask you to turn off the television or computer and go out and play?
  • Why is it important to be physically active?
  • What are some reasons you may not reach 60 minutes each day?
  • When do you go over 60 minutes?


  • If you wanted to burn 300 extra calories each week, what would you do? (Would you exercise all on one day? Different days? Would you do the same kinds of activities again and again, or have a variety?)
  • Can you think of ways to reach 60 minutes each day, if you didn’t?
  • What will you share with your parents and family about this activity?


This publication was partially funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low incomes. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more, contact your local county or city Department of Social Services (phone listed under city/county government).  For help finding a local number, call toll-free: 1-800-552-3431 (M-F 8:15-5:00, except holidays).  By calling your local DSS office, you can get other useful information about services.  
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religious creed, age, disability, or political beliefs.
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call, toll free, (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
This publication was partially funded by the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, USDA, CSREES.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

December 13, 2011