Schools are critical partners in improving students’ health through nutrition, but eating and learning are often treated as separate activities in school. Most of students’ interactions with food happen during nonacademic times in the school day (e.g., recess, lunch, class parties).
Separating food from academics limits a school’s potential for improving children’s health through nutrition. Also, most educators are so focused on implementing new curricular standards (e.g., Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards) that nutrition education is often overlooked. Making deep and explicit connections between food and core academic subjects could increase the likelihood that teachers could incorporate food literacy into their daily instruction.
Common Core Cooking and Gardening for the Next Generation is a grant-funded project that aims to collaboratively develop and test classroom lessons designed to pair academics with eating. More specifically, it will engage a team of educators in curriculum design that puts food at the center of literacy and science instruction. Based on a unique pedagogical cycle: Eat-Read-Talk-Write, this classroom-tested approach starts with a shared food experience that sets context for lessons aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and Literacy, as well as the Next Generation Science Standards.
The shared food experience begins with a simple cooking or tasting activity that connects to informational or narrative texts about food. For example, a comparative tasting of different tomatoes pairs well with the text I Will Never NOT Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child. In this book, an older brother playfully tricks his younger sister into eating her veggies using his imagination. First grade students would describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3). The cycle can be extended to include planting, growing, and harvesting activities in the school garden where first graders can make observations to construct and evidence-based account that young plants and animals are alike, but not exactly like their parents (NGSS 1-LS3-1).
Although teachers have a lot on their metaphorical plates, the evidence between health and learning is overwhelming. Connecting food to the academic curriculum can nurture the bodies and minds our students in noticeable ways. For this reason, Common Core Cooking and Gardening for the Next Generation is a great opportunity for teachers who want to find more time in the day for teaching food literacy.
If you would like to be one of ten educators from Napa County to participate in this exciting project and find time in the school day to teach food literacy, complete this brief survey or contact Carrie Strohl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project is made possible because of the generous funding from a Whole Kids Foundation Innovation Grant.