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Farm to Table & Beyond is a comprehensive curriculum that teaches students about the different components of the global food system and how parts of the system interact with and influence each other. The curriculum is divided into six units. The first unit is taken from the Growing Food curriculum and introduces the students to food science. Students investigate corn (and corn products) and grapes, and make grape juice. The second unit looks at the systems of getting food from a farm to the table, including food manufacturing, packaging and transporting. The third unit focuses closer on how food changes as it goes from farm to table, looking at food processing and preserving, such as drying, salting and pickling. In the fourth unit, students look at the environmental impacts of food and the food system, such as pollution. The fifth unit discusses methods to reduce food-related waste. The sixth and final unit serves as a review and focuses on using the information from the first five units to make ecologically sound food choices.
The curriculum is designed to promote student exploration and inquiry. Throughout the modules, students are challenged to ask questions and theorize the answers. Educators are encouraged to set up full class and small group discussions, and have students present their work to the class. Students keep journals called LiFE Logs, reflecting on what they learned and answering open-ended questions. This method, used in this and other LiFE curricula, is called QuESTA: Questioning, Experimenting, Searching, Theorizing, and Applying to life.
This diverse curriculum includes a variety of learning experiences and activities to help students explore the answers to scientific questions. Creative methods of learning are used to engage students including timelines, learning stations, the jigsaw method (cooperative learning), and relating to the curriculum to current events and other subjects. Educators are encouraged to help students create a ‘farm to table’ expo to share what they are learning with other students and classes, and ideas are provided for science projects and experiments that could be used for the expo.
It would be helpful for an educator to have a background in science education or agriculture, but not required as background information and teacher notes are provided for each of the lessons. Lessons should be reviewed thoroughly before being taught. All activities require advance preparation. Most lessons do not require additional materials, outside what is generally found in the classroom. Lesson time is not provided for any of the lessons.
There are a variety of lesson resources, readings, experiments and activities to support each of the lessons and their objectives. Sample class discussions are provided for the educator, and background information on new concepts is provided for both the educator and the student, separately. Student pages, which are designed to be copied for use as handouts are provided. Several student pages include basic, often humorous illustrations to help promote student understanding and make the page more engaging. Student pages also include some charts and graphic representations. Some lessons include basic recipes (nutrition information for recipes is not included). It would be helpful to have student handouts and materials on a CD or in an electronic format for ease in duplicating. Student progress can be assessed with completed activity sheets and logs. There is also a pre-assessment (lesson 4) and post-assessment (lesson 30) included.
This curriculum is designed for students in grades 5 or 6 and includes a matrix that maps Farm to Table & Beyond to the National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy. Lessons and activities could be also be used in social studies, cooking and home economics classes. It is designed to be completed in a series in its entirety, but different lessons and activities could be used on their own with some modification.