In my Early Elementary Curriculum course, I am writing a curriculum for second graders focused on where the food in their school neighborhood comes from. I think studies like this are crucial to introduce children to the food system that they are born into as consumers. It is vital to build understanding in children that they are members of this system and that they have choices.
An initial step in creating this awareness is taking children on a neighborhood walk to analyze what is available and how food establishments differ. Actually stepping into stores and restaurants to look at the food they sell, how they sell it, and who sells it is the next step. Workers in stores and restaurants can be surprisingly keen on talking to children about their work.
When children begin to experience how many people are involved in the delivery chain from where food originates until it gets to their plate, they can realize the importance of every person in the system, including themselves. In addition to visiting shops in the school neighborhood, my curriculum will also include a trip to a farm sanctuary, where city children will have a chance to interact with rescued farm animals, in an attempt to bridge any disconnect between their meat choices and where they come from.
In addition to awareness of food sources, another main goal of this curriculum is building confidence in students so that they are empowered to question elements of the food system. Having the confidence to ask questions and to use research skills in the quest of information is crucial in developing a thinking, active consumer. When children have the knowledge to research food, food labels and food systems, they are then equipped to make healthier choices. With the internet today it is easier than ever to research ingredients and terms on packaging. The children will also take part in activities such as gardening, to understand how things grow, and cooking, to culminate their growing confidence in working with food.
There is also great opportunity in any curriculum involving food for science lessons. I will be including one on digestion and nutrition. There is also loads of math in cooking from measuring and temperature, as well as in shopping when working with a budget or understanding value.
As if that weren’t enough, there is also great potential in a food curriculum for building connections between cultures. In my curriculum, students’ families will be invited in to share recipes, food traditions and even health tips related to food.
If we want to empower children to become active citizens who question, what better place is there to start than their plate?