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Food is Elementary©: First Semester

1. Introducing the Food Pyramid, Hygiene, & Safety

The children learn about the food pyramid and why the foods at the base of the pyramid form the foundation of a healthy diet. They are given blank outlines of the pyramid and stickers of various foods to fill in the spaces. This reinforces concepts about food categories. The children begin their weekly food education journals. The children practice washing their hands, learn how to properly use a knife, and learn about food
safety issues.

 2. Dietary Fat

The children learn the concept of dietary fat and why too much fat can lead to chronic disease. They learn that fat sticks to the inside of your blood vessels and why that can be a problem. They then can taste and/or touch 5 different milk products ranging from skim milk which contains just 4% calories from fat, up to heavy cream which contains 97% calories as fat. The children can try to identify the fat "feel" by determining which milk has the most fat by observing which milk sticks to their finger the most.

 3. Food Comparisons (fat and sugar), Labels, and Shopping

The children learn that foods vary widely in terms of their fat and sugar content. Comparisons of various foods with their fat and sugar grams are made. The children write the number of fat and sugar grams next to various food items in their journals. This will serve as a reference. The children learn about being a smart shopper and getting the best nutrition for your money. For example, comparisons are made between the cost of home-made bean soup versus prepared soups. The cost of prepared foods versus whole foods are discussed. Older children learn to read labels and interpret ads. As a homework assignment, students read at least one nutritional label with their parents and report back to the class.

4. Exercise

The children can dance and move to the music. They learn something about the culture that created the music first and are able to dance in groups. Students discuss the benefits of regular exercise in helping to prevent the build-up of fat in their arteries and to build strong bones. They also talk about the way exercise makes them feel good as a result of increasing the flow of oxygen throughout the body.

 5. Vitamins

The children learn the names of the basic vitamins, the parts of the body which benefit from each vitamin, and foods which are sources of each vitamin. Students record in their journals the color of the foods which are rich sources of each basic vitamin, and drawings are made of foods of those colors.

6. Whole Grains

The children learn the category of whole grains which form the base of the pyramid. The difference between whole grains and refined grains is discussed. Students discover many whole grains which are not commonly eaten in the United States. Learning about the variety of whole grains makes eating 6 - 11 servings of grains each day (as recommended in the USDA food pyramid) more appealing to the children. Kernels of whole grains are distributed and examined. The children then tape or glue the grains in their journals and note the name, country of origin, and traditional use of each grain.

7. Whole Grain Breads

The children slice and sample a variety of whole grain breads. They identify the tastes of the different breads, and they evaluate which whole grain breads they like the most. They record taste preferences in their journals.

8. Tabouli and Egyptian grain dish

The children prepare two different whole grain dishes in the classroom which don't require cooking. They learn about the countries where these foods are made and sample the recipes they have created. Knife safety and basic cooking skills are emphasized.

9. Fruits

The children define and identify a variety of fruits. They sample exotic and everyday fruits and determine their favorites. Discussion about the characteristics of fruits is intertwined with comparison of sweet, tart, and sour flavors. The children may rank the fruits according to taste, preference, or other characteristics. The defining characteristic of fruits is that all fruits have seeds. The children learn that many foods we classify as vegetables are actually fruits.

10. Fruit Variety in Individual Regions
e.g. Citrus in FL or Apples in NY

The children learn that there is variety not only in categories of foods such as fruit, but within the genus as well. For example, since citrus is grown in Florida, Miami children sample a variety of citrus fruits and evaluate their tastes. They compare the tastes of different varieties of oranges, and they further compare these tastes with the flavors of grapefruits, lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits available.

11. Veggies

The children define and identify a variety of vegetables including those derived from the edible root, bulb, stem, and leaves of plants. Students talk about the differences between vegetables and fruits. They smell, touch, observe, and taste many different kinds of fresh vegetables. Vocabulary building is stressed particularly in the comparison of the different vegetables. Vitamin and mineral content analysis is discussed along with the importance of soil fertility.

12. Greens

The children identify various greens and talk about the fact that greens are the leaves of plants. Through discussion, students learn about the high vitamin and mineral content of greens. They also compare the color, shape, and size of greens noting that the darker greens contain the most vitamins and minerals. The children sample the greens and evaluate the tastes recording preferences in their journals.

 13. Legumes

The children learn about legumes from around the world noting the definition (seeds in a pod), history of use in several cultures, and the nutritional value of legumes. They prepare two bean dips, hummus and black bean, and a simple salsa. Students sample the dips with baked corn chips and whole grain pita bread. The children create mosaics with colorful beans in their journals. They plant bean seeds and observe differences in plant growth.

 14. Food as Art

In this final unit, the children discuss the aesthetic aspects of food and the value of preparing a beautiful as well as nutritious meal. Students create beautiful designs on a plate using a variety of colorful foods which they have studied. The foods are selected for vibrant color and texture from the groups of fresh foods used in prior units. The children show their designs to their peers and are able to eat their creations. Photographs of the children with their art work (before consumption) are placed in their journals. Students take the journals home to read to their parents.


Food is Elementary©: Second Semester
Legumes from Around the World

The objectives of this semester are to:

  1. Cook with the children;
  2. Illustrate the great variety of highly nutritious legumes which are used in unique ways in different cultures; and
  3. Acquaint the children with commodity-based recipes which can be served as entrees in the school meals program.

It is essential that the children cook with assistance from the teacher and/or parents. The educational impact is lost if adults prepare the food. The curriculum is designed to employ each of the five senses in every unit. Children participating in pilot implementations of the curriculum learned most effectively when all of their senses were engaged. In each unit, the children prepare one entree while they discuss traditional accompaniments and the history of the dish. Suggestions for side dishes are included in each lesson plan. The children eat the entrees prepared in class, and they take recipes home to prepare with their families. Most of the legumes used in this set of units are commodity foods available free to schools through the USDA Commodity Food Program. For each recipe, students are asked to locate the appropriate position of recipe ingredients on a blank food pyramid. All units include:

  • locating the various countries on a large map in the classroom and on individual maps in the journals;
  • listening to music from the culture (when possible) while the children eat;
  • dancing to music from the culture (if desired) for exercise;
  • information and artifacts (when possible) from the cultures;
  • recipes which the children take home to their families and enter in their journals;
  • and recording of general information and personal reactions in journals.

1. Africa and American South: Soul Stew (Black-eyed peas and greens

Ideally, this unit is taught in January to honor Dr. Martin Luther King. The children learn about the history of soul food and how African Americans blended foods from Africa (Okra, black-eyed peas) with foods from the American South and Native Americans to develop a creative cuisine. Dr. King's life and the civil rights movement are discussed. Students listen to soul music, and discuss the development of this cuisine within the American culture. As they do for all of the units in this semester, the children make journal entries recording the history, recipe, nutritional value, and geographic location of the country of origin of the entree. They take home copies of the recipe to cook with their parents.

2. North Africa: Couscous with chick peas

The children learn about the countries in North Africa where couscous is a staple. They make an African stew with chick peas and vegetables, and they make harissa, a spicy sauce to serve on the side. Students learn how couscous is traditionally eaten by hand after the hands have been washed and rinsed with rose or orange water. The children wash their hands and rinse them with rose water to eat in this manner.

3. Egypt: Barley and peas

The children learn about traditional foods from ancient Egypt where barley and wheat were the primary staples. They cook an entree which contains foods from ancient Egypt: barley, leeks, dill, peas, and artichokes. Students learn about the Egyptian pyramids and why the USDA food pyramid was designed using the ancient pyramids as a model.

4. Japan: Sushi with adzuki bean paste as an ingredient

The children learn about artistic presentation of food by making sushi. They use Adzuki bean paste, rice, nori seaweed and vegetables to prepare sushi. Cooking activities include steaming of the rice and assembling the sushi. Students compare whole Adzuki beans to the bean paste.

5. China: Mung bean sprouts, soy sauce & tofu stir fry

The children learn about cooking in a wok or stir-frying as an energy efficient way to cook. They learn that beans can be sprouted, and they sample raw bean sprouts. The stir fry also contains soy sauce and tofu which are derived from soy beans. Students discuss how these products are made from the versatile soy bean.

6. India: Red Lentil Dhal and curry

The children see variety of color and taste in the lentil family of legumes beginning with the red lentils used in this recipe. They learn about the use of spices to flavor recipes, and they grind spices together in a mortar and pestle. Students observe that red lentils turn brown when they are cooked. Dhal (thick cooked beans with spices) is traditionally served with curried vegetables, rice, chutney (fruit preserves with ginger and sometimes vinegar), and chapattis (pita-like flat bread). The Dhal prepared by the children is eaten with chapattis in the classroom.

7. Middle East: Lentil soup and salad

The children make a soup with brown lentils, carrots, celery, parsley and spices. They learn that bean soup is very economical to make and nourishing to eat. Students also prepare a cold, marinated, Mid-Eastern salad which includes lentils, parsley, onions, and spices. They compare and contrast the hot and cold entrees prepared from essentially the same ingredients, and they discuss other ways to prepare lentils.

8. Latin America: Brazilian black beans

The children prepare a hot Brazilian black bean dish which also includes vegetables and spices. They learn about the spices commonly used in Brazil. By pounding them in a mortar with a pestle, students also learn about the Portuguese, West African, and Indian influences on Brazilian cuisine and culture. Brazil is unique in South America by having a complex cuisine which has been influenced by distant cultures with which the country had trade relations.

9. Mexico: Frijoles and tortillas

The children learn about this popular traditional dietary combination and make their own tortillas. They learn why frijoles (pinto beans) and tortillas are an important nutritional combination which has sustained Latino cultures for centuries. Through this combination, Latinos have obtained all of the essential amino acids in one meal. Chopped avocado, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and lettuce are served as accompaniments to the combination of frijoles and tortillas.

10. France: French beans

The children make a salad with French beans as a base. They learn that a bean-based salad can be very filling and nourishing. Children compare different types of potatoes and learn characteristics of different varieties. Students also make a traditional vinaigrette salad dressing with tarragon, shallots, and Dijon mustard. The salad is served with whole grain French bread or French peasant Bread.

11. Italy: Pasta fagioli with white kidney beans

The children learn how to make a one-pot meal combining beans, greens and pasta. Any pasta can be used, but multi-colored spirals are recommended for this unit. (Spirals are available through the USDA commodity program.) Students will flavor this dish with tomatoes and fresh basil which are two important ingredients used in many Italian recipes. They learn how tomatoes from South America and basil from India become vital to Italian cuisine even though they were not indigenous.

12. Caribbean: Red Carlotta beans and rice

The children learn about foods from the Caribbean. In traditional Caribbean cuisine, the combination of beans and rice provides all of the essential amino acids in one meal. The children learn about island cultures and many of the outside influences on the Caribbean cuisine. Identifying the islands where Red beans and rice is a popular entree enables the students to learn the geography of a part of the world new to many of them.

13. Native American: Three sister's casserole

The children learn about the three sisters in Native American cuisine -- corn, beans, and squash. By drawing a diagram or, if possible, actually planting the three types of seeds together, students learn how the foods were traditionally planted together and how they complement each other nutritionally. The folklore of Native American Indians includes many stories about the three sisters personified as flint corn (larger and whiter than common corn in the U.S. today), beans, and squash. Students prepare an Iroquois version of the Three Sister's Casserole which includes corn, kidney beans, butternut squash, and maple syrup.

14. USA: Soybeans (originally from China) made into soy burgers

The children learn some of the history of the soybean and why it is so important nutritionally as a source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Soy beans are the most nutritious legume. Students also learn that in the U.S.A. soybeans are primarily grown a feed for livestock, and why this practice is inefficient in terms of land use and hunger. They learn how the versatile soybean is made into many different products. They prepare soy burgers as a delicious alternative to hamburgers.


Last Updated on Saturday, 26 June 2010 21:27


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