New, free USDA education materials show children how to make healthful food choices

Research shows that students with healthful eating patterns tend to do better in school, and it’s important that children begin learning about food and nutrition when they’re young. In support of that goal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently released three, free sets of curriculum educators can use to empower children to make healthful food choices and develop an awareness of how fruits and vegetables are grown.

The Great Garden Detective Adventure” curriculum forthird and fourth grades includes 11 lessons, bulletin board materials, veggie dice, fruit and vegetable flash cards, and 10 issues of Garden Detective News for parents/caregivers. Kids will discover what fruits and vegetables are sweetest, crunchiest, and juiciest through investigations and fun experiences connecting the school garden to the classroom, school cafeteria, and home.

Dig In!” is a supplemental unit for fifth and sixth grades with 10 inquiry-based lessons, a gardening guide, “Dig In! at Home,” booklets for parents/caregivers, and six colorful posters encouraging fruit and vegetable choices.

Both Garden Detective and Dig In! lessons are linked to education standards in one or more of the following subjects: science (National Academy of Sciences), English language arts (Common Core State Standards Initiative), math (Common Core State Standards Initiative), and health (American Cancer Society).

Anyone can access and download these materials from the Team Nutrition website. Schools participating in Child Nutrition Programs (e.g., National School Lunch Program) can also order free print copies of materials. The Great Garden Detective Adventure will be available in print this month and Dig In! in August.

For younger children, FNS’ updated “Grow It! Try It! Like It!: Preschool Fun with Fruits and Vegetables” links activities at child care centers with resources for use at home. Since routine food choices for young children are determined by their families and adult care givers, these lessons encourage children to try new fruits and vegetables again and again. Children are taught to touch, smell, and taste new fruits and vegetables. The curriculum also integrates planting activities to help little ones connect the delicious food choices at the table with the different growing conditions and plants that produce fruits and vegetables.

The curriculum includes one introduction and resource book, six lesson books (three fruits and three vegetables-nutrition education and gardening activities), take home materials, a supplemental materials CD, and “The Cool Puppy Pup” DVD. Child care centers and schools participating in Child Nutrition Programs will be able to request free print copies later this year. All materials are currently available online.

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