Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences
University of California
Nutrition, Family and Consumer Sciences

Posts Tagged: school

Go back-to-school with a garden

It's that time already when the kids start heading back to school and meals go back to a strict schedule. It can be easy to turn to take-out and other convenience foods to make meal times more manageable, especially during the rush of back-to-school. However, there's a long school year ahead and focusing on good habits now can set the tone for the next nine months. The old adage that “food is fuel” rings true - healthy choices help kids maintain a healthy weight, avoid health problems, manage energy levels, and sharpen their minds.

BEFORE: Carthay Center located in Los Angeles County had a perfect underutilized location for a school garden. (Photo: Louisa Cardenas)

AFTER: Carthay Center now uses its thriving garden for hands-on gardening lessons and outdoor learning. (Photo: Louisa Cardenas)

How can we reinforce healthy eating habits during the hustle and bustle of back-to-school? 

School gardening offers children opportunities to get outdoors and exercise while teaching them a useful skill. Gardens containing fruits and vegetables can revise attitudes about particular foods; there is even a correlation between growing fruits and vegetables and consumption of these products. Gardens are likely to transform food attitudes and habits and in school gardens this can be especially impactful when combined with nutrition education.

In addition to health and nutrition benefits, gardening also offers hands-on experiences in a variety of core curriculum which includes natural and social sciences, language arts, nutrition and math. This can play a big part in supporting your kids' education outside of the classroom.

Encouraging children to connect with food through a school garden is a way to establish healthier eating habits. Pictured, students in San Joaquin County learn about vermicomposting.

Benefits of school gardening:

  • Physical health
  • Social and emotional health
  • Academic achievement
  • School and community benefits
  • Enhance nutritional preferences, and
  • Increased self-esteem

Learn more with the UC Master Gardener Program

The UC Master Gardener Program is a community of volunteers across California, under the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, that extends research-based information on gardening to the public. If your school does not have a school garden program, contact the UC Master Gardener Program in your county to learn about the possibility of new school garden programming and other garden-education you and your children can participate in.  

The UC Master Gardener Program can connect you with local community gardens, and or provide the information you need to get started with your own school or home garden.  Many programs have relationships with local schools to support garden-based education. 

Students learning about Propagation at "Dig it Grow it, Eat it" a school garden program in Marin County.

“Dig it, Grow it, Eat it”

The UC Master Gardener Program in Marin County hosts a portable field trip for school-age youth called “Dig it, Grow it, Eat it.” This award-winning program emphasizes engagement and the many learning opportunities that take place in nature. Youth learn all about growing edible plants from seed to harvest and educators get the support of University-trained UC Master Gardener volunteers to deliver the curriculum. 

Whether or not you already have a school garden program your family can engage in, reach out to the UC Master Gardener Program to get the help and information you need to inspire healthy eating and an active lifestyle in your children.  Now is a great time to plan and plant your winter garden, just in time to get your kids back to school and excited to be learning … wherever that learning takes place!

Students who received garden-based nutrition education had improved knowledge of, preferences for, and attitudes toward fresh fruits and vegetables according to research. (Photo: Louisa Cardenas)

The UC Master Gardener volunteers are eager to help with all of your gardening needs. The UC Master Gardener Program can work with teachers and community volunteers to provide gardening information and consultation in the support of school gardens. With local programs based in more than 50 counties across California, there is sure to be a workshop or class near you. Visit our website to find your local UC Master Gardener Program, mg.ucanr.edu.

Posted on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 at 11:24 AM
Tags: gardening (1), school (8), UC Master Gardener (1)

Ever explore an artichoke?

Have you ever seen young students explore an artichoke for the first time? Their faces look puzzled as they wonder if this green spiny thing they hold before them is even edible. What about a kiwi? Eyebrows furrow in bewilderment when kids encounter this fuzzy fruit for the first time. Our favorite kiwi quote from a fifth-grade student: “This smells like dirt.”

All jokes aside, in Fresno County, nutrition education is becoming a priority for teachers. The UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program has worked with over 950 teachers at over 80 schools throughout the county this school year. Our teachers are innovative, and continue to be outstanding in their approach to nutrition education!

While there isn’t enough space to recognize all outstanding educators, we are excited to share a few examples of the ways teachers are going above and beyond to teach students nutrition.

Ayer students learn about edible plant parts.

At Ayer Elementary, kindergarten teachers John Schnell, Donna Johnston, Catherine Uribe, and Nancy Patrick have made healthy eating and active living a priority. They actively take part in nutrition education and monthly tastings provided by UC Calfresh. They often bring in additional healthy foods for the students to sample. Understanding the importance of nutrition in a family-setting, Ayer teachers have invited UC CalFresh to partner in providing kinder parents important nutrition tips to get the year off to a healthy start.  

 

 

Balderas students build healthy plates!
Following a lesson taught by a UC CalFresh program coordinator at Balderas Elementary, Mrs. Nunez’s third-grade class created a collage of “Sometime vs. Anytime” foods. Mrs. Nunez went the extra step to reinforce the key concept of enjoying foods in moderation.  Students took the information learned and made “anytime meals.” Students’ artwork was displayed in the hallway for all to see.

 

 

 

 

 

Kindergarten students at Burrough Elementary build a healthy breakfast!

“We put our milk in, we take the milk out…and we shake it all about."

It's breakfast time at Burroughs Elementary. Mrs. Mata-Webb’s kindergarten class learned the importance of breakfast through song and dance. Students practiced building a healthy breakfast by including three of the five food groups at breakfast time.

 

 

 

Food Service staff at Viking Elementary
Dedicated to ensuring the health of our students, food service staff in Fresno Unified have also gone the extra mile to help promote our adult nutrition education classes and workshops.

The educators and school staff spotlighted provide a glimpse of the endless examples of excellent nutrition education happening in Fresno County. Statewide, the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program is very fortunate to work with such amazing educators. At the University of California Cooperative Extension, we’re working through schools to teach kids good food habits and decision-making skills.

If you would like to have the UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program at your school contact Shelby MacNab, (559) 600-7222 or smacnab@ucdavis.edu. For additional information, visit our website.

Posted on Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 8:41 AM
  • Author: Shelby MacNab
  • Author: Brittanny Zweigle
  • Contributor: Angelita Zaragoza
  • Contributor: Elizabeth Villalobos

UC-CalFresh supports school district menu changes through Nutrition Education

If you’ve ever asked a kindergarten student to flex their muscles, you know the smiles and giggles that follow. Their eyes grow wide when they learn about protein foods that help to keep their muscles strong. The UC-CalFresh Nutrition Education Program has the privilege of working with low-income students in Fresno County to combat childhood obesity through nutrition education.

Students flex their muscles!
Let’s look at a snap-shot of the health of Fresno County children. According to the CDC, 17.5 percent of children in Fresno County ages 2 to 5 years old are over the 95th percentile for their age. What does this mean? Over 21,000 young children are considered overweight. According to the California Department of Education, when compared with the statewide average* there is a greater percentage of 5th (36 percent), 7th (36 percent), and 9th (34 percent) grade students in Fresno County with an unhealthy body composition.

The numbers are jaw-dropping. What’s being done to combat these bleak statistics?

Students pretending to be vegetables in a "vegetable soup."
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 has opened the door for improved menu changes to school breakfasts and lunches with increased funding for meals meeting updated nutritional standards.  Examples of some of the new standards include: fat-free and low-fat milk, increased whole grains, a greater variety of colorful vegetables and offering juice that is 100 percent fruit juice.

The UC-CalFresh Nutrition Education Program works in close partnership with local school districts, food service directors, and over 900 Fresno County educators. In support of local school districts’ efforts to improve the nutritional value of the meals served, UC-CalFresh has come along side teachers to provide lessons, nutrition education materials, and healthy food demonstrations monthly. With a family-centered approach in mind, we further extend our reach through parent nutrition education classes and workshops.


Parent nutrition education display.
Working with teachers and students in the classroom provides students the opportunity to explore and taste healthy foods. Through parent education, parents gain the tools to select and prepare nutritious, affordable foods for their families.  With nutrition education on menu at school and home, students will be prepared to savor the improved menu choices coming to the school cafeteria.

At the University of California Cooperative Extension, our collaborative efforts are helping build and maintain healthy families and communities.


* Statewide averages in 5th, 7th and 9th are 32percent, 31 percent and 29percent, respectively.

Posted on Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 8:14 AM
  • Author: Shelby MacNab

Elementary students spring into health!

Imagine a large grassy field on a sunny May morning transformed into the largest classroom in town for nutrition education. Open quiet space quickly became an experiential classroom as over 200 fourth- and fifth-grade students descended to learn about making healthy choices.

The University of California Cooperative Extension’s Youth Nutrition Education Program and the Network for a Healthy California’s Children’s PowerPlay! program partnered at an elementary school in Fresno to introduce students to edible plant parts, healthy food choices, the five food groups and the importance of regular physical activity. Thanks to H&E Nursery, students also had the opportunity to transplant their very own tomato plants.

I could describe the laughter and learning vividly, the wide-eyed students gazing inquisitively at an artichoke or parsnip for the first time, but why not take a look at some of students’ experiences in their own words?



To share what they had learned with the entire school, students created posters for each food group to hang on the stage in the school cafeteria.

Students creating posters to share with their school.

Posters for each food group and physical activity on display in the school cafeteria.


And when the morning was through and the activity stations completed, the students returned to their classrooms with big smiles (and their very own tomato plants). But perhaps the most important, the very reason we do what we do, students returned having gained the knowledge and tools they need to make healthy food choices.


At the University of California, we’re increasing science literacy and working through schools to teach kids good food habits and decision-making skills. The Youth Nutrition Education program serves thousands of low-income students in the Fresno County area. For more information visit us on the web, or call (559) 600-7285.

Posted on Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 1:03 PM
  • Author: Shelby MacNab

School gardens: Important in the past...and the future

“The school garden has come to stay.”

In 1909, Ventura schoolteacher Zilda M. Rogers wrote to the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of California, Berkeley, then the flagship agricultural campus for California’s land grant institution, and a primary proponent and provider of garden education resources for schoolteachers. Rogers wrote in some detail about how her school garden work had progressed, what the successes and failures were, how the children were responding to the opportunity to garden, how her relationship with the children had changed as a result of the garden work, and what she saw as potential for the future.

“With the love of the school garden has grown the desire for a home garden and some of their plots at home are very good. . . . Since commencing the garden work the children have become better companions and friend . . . and to feel that there is a right way of doing everything. . . . It is our garden. . . . We try to carry that spirit into our schoolroom.”

More than 100 years after Rogers wrote those words, school gardens have continued to be cherished in the public school system in which she worked. The Ventura Unified School District has developed a nationally recognized model that links school gardening, nutrition education and a farm-to-school lunch program featuring many locally sourced fruits and vegetables for its 17,000 public school students.

The University of California took note of the success that educators like Rogers were experiencing with school gardens. Being certain to include the words written by her, the University of California published Circular No. 46, which offered information about how to build school garden programs. School gardens were to be an integral part of primary schooling.  As the circular declared, “The school garden has come to stay.”

School gardens had been used in parts of Europe as early as 1811, and mention of their value preceded that by nearly two centuries. Philosophers and educational reformers such as John Amos Comenius and Jean-Jacques Rousseau discussed the importance of nature in the education of children; Comenius mentioned gardens specifically.

The use and purpose of school gardens was multifold; gardens provided a place where youth could learn natural sciences (including agriculture) and also acquire vocational skills. Indeed, the very multiplicity of uses and purposes for gardens made it difficult for gardening proponents to firmly anchor gardening in the educational framework and a school’s curriculum.  It still does.

The founder of the kindergarten movement, Friedrich Froebel, used gardens as an educational tool. Froebel was influenced by Swiss educational reformer Johann Pestalozzi, who saw a need for balance in education, a balance that incorporated “hands, heart, and head,” words and ideas that would be incorporated nearly two centuries later into the mission of the United States Department of Agriculture’s 4-H youth development program. (These words still guide the work of the University of California’s 4-H program). Educational leaders such as Liberty Hyde Bailey and John Dewey fused ideas of nature study and experiential education with gardening.

Perhaps one of the earliest school garden programs in the United States was developed in 1891, at the George Putnam School in Roxbury, Mass.  (Today, the nationally recognized food project also teaches youth about gardening and urban agriculture in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston). Like others interested in gardening, Henry Lincoln Clapp, who was affiliated with the George Putnam School, traveled to Europe for inspiration. After traveling to Europe and visiting school gardens there, he partnered with the Massachusetts Horticultural Society to create the garden at Putnam; the model was replicated around the state. It was followed in relatively short order by other efforts, including a well-known garden program in New York City: the DeWitt Clinton Farm School.

Gardening became nearly a national craze during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era and “school” gardens enjoyed immense popularity. The United States Department of Agriculture estimated that there were more than 75,000 school gardens by 1906. As their popularity soared, advocates busily supplied a body of literature about school gardening and agricultural education.

One book argued that school gardens were not a “new phase of education,” but rather, an “old one” that was gaining merit for its ability to accomplish a wide variety of needs. School gardens were a way to reconnect urbanized American youth with their agrarian, producer heritage, the Jeffersonian idea of the sturdy yeoman farmer. One author argued for the importance of gardening education and nature study for both urban and rural youth, for “sociological and economic” reasons.

One important reason to garden with urban youth was to teach “children to become producers as well as consumers,” and for the possibility “of turning the tide of population toward the country, thus relieving the crowded conditions of the city.” Other reformers echoed this idea, including Jacob Riis, who said, “The children as well as the grown people were ‘inspired to greater industry and self-dependence.’  They faced about and looked away from the slum toward the country.”  It’s now more than a century later, the average American farmer is in his/her late 50s, and the need to reconnect a new generation of youth to the land seems even more compelling. Could the school gardens of today provide the farmers of tomorrow?

The school garden movement received a huge boost during World War I, when the Federal Bureau of Education introduced the United States School Garden Army. During the interwar years and the Great Depression, youth participated in relief gardening. During World War II, a second Victory Garden program swept the nation, but after that, school garden efforts became the exception, not the norm.

The 1970s environmental movement brought renewed interest to the idea of school and youth gardening, and another period of intense growth began in the early 1990s. Interest in farm-to-school has continued to breathe life into the school garden movement, and some states, notably California, have developed legislation to encourage school gardens. (Under the tenure of State Education superintendent Delaine Eastin, a Garden in Every School program was begun. Under Jack O’Connell’s tenure, Assembly Bill 1535, which funded school gardens, was approved).

We should all take note of the tagline for the U.S. government’s youth gardening program in World War I: “A Garden for Every Child. Every Child in a Garden.” Wouldn’t this be a great idea today? With the cuts in school funding, increased classroom size and other challenges, some school garden programs are facing real challenges. They deserve our support, not only in practice (volunteer!) but also by our advocacy for public policies that support youth gardening work in school and community settings. Why not advocate for a nationally mandated curriculum that promotes food systems education in American public schools, something like “Race to the Crop”?

Some of the best models for school gardens lie in our past.  But the real potential of school gardens to reduce obesity, encourage a healthy lifestyle, reconnect youth with the food system and to build healthier, vibrant communities is something we can realize today . . . and is something that should be an important concern of our national public policy.

A note to readers: Google Books contains copies of two important books in the school gardening literature of the Progressive Era, (Miller and Greene’s), as well as numerous other Progressive era books pertaining to gardening and agricultural education. To learn more about the United States School Garden Army’s efforts during WWI (a GREAT model for a national curriculum today!), visit the UC Victory Grower website.

Posted on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 8:31 AM
Tags: 4-H (1), history (1), school (8)

Next 5 stories | Last story

 
E-mail
 
Webmaster Email: vvkenyon@ucanr.edu