by Kathleen Nay
Since 2006, the Friedman School’s Agriculture, Food and Environment students have partnered with the third grade classes at Josiah Quincy Elementary School to explore the benefits of garden-based learning. Dig In! Nutrition Education (DINE) is a curriculum designed to get kids excited about food while simultaneously fulfilling Massachusetts’ school science standards. This fall, both AFE students and the third graders enjoyed learning about the food system and nutrition together.
Lesson 1: All About Plant Parts
Our first lesson started with the basics: learning the different parts of plants and how they function. We sang a song about the six basic plant structures—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seeds—and talked about which parts store food, carry water and nutrients, and make sugars. Students identified plant parts that we eat and had a chance to examine a variety of edible plants, including radishes, celery, kale, and grape tomatoes. Finally, we used our different plant parts to build an imaginary plant.
Lesson 2: Soil and Decomposition
An important part of gardens is the creatures that live in them. In this lesson, we examined live earthworms. Students learned about how soil is made
from living and nonliving material, how earthworms and decomposers make soil and recycle nutrients, and why healthy soil is important for healthy plants and healthy people. Some students were so fascinated with their worms that they even named them.
Lesson 3: The Food Web
In lesson three, we talked about the distinctions between producers, decomposers, and consumers. We identified three kinds of consumers: herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores. Students worked in groups to draw some example food webs. We discussed some of the things we ate for breakfast (e.g., waffles, cereal with milk, bacon) and identified how our food interacts as part of the food web. We also thought about what might happen if part of a food web is disrupted, and how that could impact human diets.
Lesson 4: Eating the Rainbow
For the last lesson, students brainstormed fruits and vegetables of all the colors of the rainbow, learned that different colored foods nourish different parts of our bodies, and that we should aim to eat at least 1-2 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Finally, students participated in a taste test and voted on their favorite samples. Among the contenders for best fruit or vegetable were tomatoes, bean sprouts, cucumbers, oranges, grapes, and mangoes.
DINE is an exciting way to teach kids about food using each of their senses and offers a chance for Friedman students to get involved in the community. Next semester is shaping up to be just as exciting as the fall was and will include lessons in Quincy Elementary’s rooftop garden. Look for opportunities to get involved with DINE in the spring!
Kathleen Nay is a first-year AFE/UEP student and is looking forward to volunteering with DINE again next semester.