“Food is Elementary was a fantastic educational addition to our classroom, as well as an important and interesting supplement to our curriculum. The kids in my classroom really looked forward to the lessons every week, and they thoroughly enjoyed being exposed to foods that they hadn’t seen or tried before. Education should always be about discovery, and the Food is Elementary program fits this philosophy perfectly.” – Spencer H, Teacher, New York
Food is Elementary Curriculum
Food is Elementary is an interdisciplinary nutrition education curriculum for people in preschool through grade 12 and beyond. Because the curriculum is based on key concepts, it has been successfully adapted for people of all ages.
Food is Elementary has been taught in hundreds of schools and educational settings in the US and abroad. This curriculum is a wonderful hands-on way for people to promote the health of people and the planet via positive sensory-based education. The academic disciplines are integrated in the lessons which provides a holistic, fun way to learn while demonstrating key concepts. Food is Elementary incorporates food, nutrition, ecology, and agriculture in ways that are practical to promoting wellness and enjoyable to experience. The Food Studies Institute’s research has demonstrated that people will remember what they learn when their senses are engaged and share what they learn with others.
Food is Elementary is based on the quote “food is good to think”, coined by anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. Food is a sensory vehicle that lends itself naturally to bringing academic concepts to life. For example, a lesson on Japanese sushi involves learning about geography and climate, agrarian history, indigenous foods, traditional recipes, folklore, literature, music, dance, and other artistic traditions. Mathematical concepts are reinforced through measuring and understanding fractions by visualizing the relationship of the parts as they relate to the whole. Older students can measure their sushi roll and calculate the circumference.
The key concept of this curriculum, experiential learning through engaging all the senses, requires that people cook cooperatively with their peers. Educational literature has established that people first learn about the world through their senses. Through cooking, all the senses are utilized creatively thus taking advantage of a natural receptivity in people of all ages. Studies have demonstrated that 75% of all people learn best through sensory-based education. Food is Elementary deliberately focuses on creative ways to engage multiple learning styles.
Food is Elementary provides a means for people to accept healthier foods through experiential learning. It is especially important that children learn about healthy eating patterns at an early age so that they can protect their health through diet as they grow older. Poor eating habits established in young children lead to increased incidence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, many of the cancers, and diabetes. Inadequate nutrition can also prevent children from learning effectively.
The curriculum is a research-based program modeled after the award-winning Trumansburg, New York study “Food Education in the Elementary Classroom.” This study, the Cornell University doctoral thesis of Dr. Antonia Demas published in 1995, proved that a food-based curriculum results in dramatic dietary acceptance of diverse healthful foods among students in the elementary school lunch program. Additionally, the study shows that a hands-on, experiential food-based curriculum provides academic enrichment for all students and positively impacts family eating patterns. This has been called the “trickle up” effect with children being catalysts for healthy dietary changes at home.
Goals of Food is Elementary
- Educate people about the relationship between food choices and health promotion/disease prevention
- Provide people with the life skill of food preparation through hands-on interactive experience
- Introduce healthful foods through the traditions and arts of different cultures
- Incorporate literature, geography, history, science, art, music and math into food-based lessons
- Encourage a person’s natural curiosity and creativity to be the foundation of learning
- Involve families and community in classroom learning, school meals, gardens, and collaborative mural projects
- Teach people about the role their food choices have on climate change and the impact on the environment
- Provide people with an opportunity to experience the wonders of the natural world and why it is necessary to respect it
- Model behaviors that can be promoted in the home such as composting and recycling
- Provide an outlet of artistic expression by creative design of food presentation