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, 7.3, 8.3
Health 3.1, 3.2, 4.2, 4.7, 5.1, 5.2, 5.4, 6.1, 6.3, 6.4, 7.3, 8.4  
Setting   Classroom    CampX     Either
Location   OutsideX Indoors     Either

Project Skill: Discussing what is considered a “normal” body size

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

  • describe media images of men and women, boys and girls
  • differentiate between body sizes portrayed in “media” and “real” life
  • understand that the “truth” is not necessarily depicted in the media because of plastic surgery and digital imagery
  • learn that “thin” does not mean healthy

Life Skills: Communicating, Appropriate expression of feelings

Preparation Time: Create a collage of pictures of “real-life” individuals from local or regional newspapers. Assemble supplies. Search online videos such as youtube that address body image or digital “makeovers.”


  • Internet access and LCD projector
  • Scissors for every child
  • Magazines
  • One large poster
  • Glue
  • What’s Normal Supposed to Look Like, Anyway? poster for girls and boys (Western Dairy Association)
  • Appropriate videos. Examples include: The “Dove Evolution” found at; The “Photoshop Effect” at

Optional Handouts:

  • Are You Normal? (USDA handout)
  • Looking at Looks (VCE publication 348-245)
  • Who Am I? (VCE publication 348-246)


  1. Gather magazines ahead of time for the student part of the activity.
  2. Provide a variety of magazines available for cutting and pasting.
  3. Ask each student to cut out pictures from magazines of different people that they believe are “normal” or “average” for movie stars.
  4. Collect these images as a class and glue them onto a poster.
  5. Compare the student-generated poster to the one you created where real body sizes are portrayed.
  6. Show videos that show how ads often are created.
  7. Show the poster, “What’s Normal Supposed to Look Like, Anyway?” for girls and boys, to illustrate that “normal” is relative. Discuss the questions shown here.
  8. Reinforce the concept that thin is not necessarily healthier. Eating well and being active help determine health.


  • Choose magazines and videos that are age-appropriate.
  • You may be able to obtain free, old magazines from some libraries or newsstands.
  • Discuss digital “makeovers” with students, who may not understand what that means.
  • Be careful about pop-up ads if you use youtube videos.

Other Ideas:

  • Hand out Are You Normal?, Looking at Looks, or Who Am I? to the class. Ask the students to share their ideas with the class and their parents.


  • • How did you feel in comparison to the models in the media?
    • How realistic do you think it is to look like them?
    • How did you feel in comparison to the people in the poster that the leader created?
    • How do you feel about yourself and how you look?


  • What was your perception of “normal” before the activity and what was your perception afterwards? Did your ideas change?
  • How are media ads created? Are they “real”?
  • Why is it important to know the difference between “media” images and “real-life” individuals?


  • What can you do so you do not compare yourself to the people you see in the media?
  • Why is it important to have plenty of information before making decisions?
  • What is a healthy body? Are thin people necessarily healthier than overweight people?
  • What things are more important than looks?


  • What will you do differently as a result of this activity?
You can’t judge a book by its cover.
There is a lot more to a person than looks – such as character and personality.


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 14, 2011