Learning is the name of the game for new Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist Siew Sun Wong, who uses games and nontraditional teaching tools to teach her students, as well as children, about nutrition. She currently is working on an out-of-this-world research project in which she’ll teach nutrition in the virtual reality world of Beaver Island in Second Life.
1 St. Francis plaque: She derives inspiration and encouragement from St. Francis’ quote, which to her means, “One positive thing is enough to cast away the negative.”
2 “Yes” sticks: She uses these yes/no sticks as icebreakers, to help students meet each other and to gauge how much they know.
3 Calendar: Once a month, she reconfigures this Lego calendar. “It’s good to train your brain,” she says.
4 Small book: This book of famous quotes and proverbs, a gift from her husband, provides a lot of wisdom, she says. “And it’s short, so it’s easy to read.”
5 World map: This map she prepared for a guest lecture highlights 22 countries facing repeated food crises and a high prevalence of hunger due to natural disasters, conflict and weak institutions.
6 Hippo: “I love hippos,” she says. The intrigue and humor lies in their proportion, she says of the animal she collects in many forms. “For instance, they have a tiny tail for such a large body.”
7 Brown mind map on wall: Her most recent, this mind map helped in brainstorming how to make use of smartphone applications to teach nutrition in a fun way.
8 Mind map at left: Dietetic, nutrition and pre-med students at Utah State University worked with her on this map to figure out ways to better teach youth about the importance of calcium in preventing osteoporosis.
9 Mind map at right: Contributing to this map was a physician, an engineer, a psychologist and Extension faculty who worked to make use of a virtual pet to motivate 6- to 8-year-olds from lowincome families to lower their risk of childhood obesity.
10 On the desktop: The FoodScapes slideshow is one of her favorite online tools to teach kids about new foods. “I love creative things,” she says, “and to help others learn to appreciate culture and diversity.”
11 Blue cards: On each card is a conversation starter for family dinners such as, “Tell about someone who encourages you.”
12 Music mug: A former violinist for the Malaysia Symphony Orchestra, she loves music, and this mug was given to her by her sister, who teaches music to children in Malaysia and who influenced Siew Sun to incorporate fun and games into learning. And the approach works, especially given her playful personality.
“I want to create something versatile and low cost,” she says of her teaching tools. “It’s important to reach those with limited resources. It’s also important for some kids to reduce their screen time,” she adds. “Kids need more social interaction and teamwork. That’s my motivation.”