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Davis College students create food safety public service announcements

For West Virginia University faculty who primarily teach in-person classes, online learning comes with its own set of challenges.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced her traditionally face-to-face science of food preparation course online, professor Kristen Matak knew she’d need to creatively engage her students. Kristen Matak

“I wanted them to be engaged even though they’re not on campus. I wanted a great way to get the students to interact with each other even though they’re not interacting in a physical classroom,” she explained.

Matak, a professor of human nutrition and foods in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, researched effective teaching methods for asynchronous learning but often felt like something was missing.

The typical online format involves an assignment, posting answers to questions in a discussion board and commenting on other students’ answers - something she said students find time consuming and a forced engagement.

Instead, she challenged each student to create a video public service announcement about a food safety topic.

The one food safety rule students were not allowed to choose was hand washing, for the simple fact that it has been talked about so much.
“I wanted this to be a timeless type of assignment. If they talk about hand washing now, it’s going to go back to COVID-19. COVID-19 is consuming everybody’s everything right now, so I wanted to take it away from that. I didn’t want that to be the theme,” Matak explained.

The assignment did more than help the students learn and engage. The videos are informative, funny, creative, impressive and available on YouTube.

“I’ve been encouraging them to go through and just watch them because some of them are really funny,” Matak said.

Senior human nutrition and foods major Timothy Rant watched all of the videos just for entertainment.

“There were some really good ones. One of them was a sketch about the temperature danger zone; it was super creative,” he said. “The videos were definitely great for engagement. They were also great for engaging with the material instead of just memorizing facts and taking notes. It was actually doing something that was applicable.”

Rant’s two-minute PSA covers organization in the kitchen.
“It starts off with the first minute of the video as a funny bit where tasks are performed in the wrong order. It has no sounds, just music. I thought that would be a good dramatic way to get people's attention,” he said. “Then, it cuts out of that and basically says, ‘Order matters.’ It’s a short description of storing foods in the refrigerator and using the first in, first out rule.”

He said he chose his topic because he considered it a common mistake and an easy fix, like incorrectly storing milk and eggs in the door of the refrigerator.

For Sierra Rosales, also a senior human nutrition and foods major, the engaging assignment paid off.

“A lot of my other classes aren’t doing actual projects like this. This was something I thought was really fun to do,” she said. “I felt like this project was actually something I would have liked to do while in class, too.”

Her own PSA was about lesser known food safety rules concerning food cooling; it included her making dinner and storing the leftovers at a certain time to avoid food spoiling or bacteria growth.

“I chose this topic because I feel like it’s something people don’t really talk about,” she said.

Here are several videos created by the students:



CONTACT: Lindsay Willey
Director of Marketing and Communications
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design