By Adrienne Cedarleaf, Local Foods AmeriCorps volunteer, Pocahontas County, 2010-2012
The winter months can be a great time to prepare students for the gardens in the spring and to get them excited about food! Usually I created a lesson composed of fun facts about the featured fruit or vegetable snack, where and when it grows, how it grows on the plant (whether it’s a stem, leaf, root, flower or fruit), and a quick and easy recipe that children could take home. I tried to emphasize the concept of seasonal foods, the importance and benefits of local food, and trying new things.
These lessons were enhanced by the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). The FFVP, a program from the Office of Child Nutrition, supplies funds to qualifying elementary schools to hand-out fresh fruit or vegetable snacks to every child every week. It also encourages schools to purchase locally grown produce and simplifies the buying process. Our elementary school took advantage of this and on three separate occasions we supplied locally grown produce to all the students during the late fall. I built a relationship with the cafeteria staff so I would know ahead of time what snack they were serving so I could prepare a short, 10-20 minute lesson to give as they munched away. Just having new foods and new faces in the classroom got students excited about growing a garden and eating fresh produce
I used several resources to plan my lessons. I I looked through the Content Standard Objectives (CSOs) found on the WV Department of Education Teach 21 website to combine lessons with one or two CSOs. I found using CSO-based lessons really helps to create buy-in from school teachers and administrators. What you’re teaching fits directly with what teachers need to cover for the year. I think it also provides direction when you’re unsure about what topics to include in your lesson. Lessons and activities about health and nutrition with MyPyramid and MyPlate (the new food pyramid) can be found on the USDA website. I collaborated with the school nurse especially with MyPlate lessons because she also taught half hour lessons in several classes about very similar topics. Also, books related to food or gardening proved very helpful in a pinch. Curriculum provided by Junior Master Gardener has great activities related to certain gardening books and many gardening-related lessons for the classroom. More suggested resources for curricula and classroom activities:
-The Playbook: Creating a Model Food Service Program
Team Nutrition books (free on website) : Empowering Youth with Nutrition and Physical Activity, Nutrition Essentials: Teaching Tools for Healthy Choices,
FedCo Seed Company, From Generation to Generation. (downloadable on website)
Adrienne Cedarleaf served as an AmeriCorps volunteer for two years in Pocahontas County implementing a Farm to School program and working to develop family gardens through Grow Appalachia. She is now starting a market garden at Briar Patch Farm where she hopes to sell to local schools, restaurants and families.