|Reviewers Comments: ||Growing Healthy Habits is a unique curriculum teaches nutrition education through gardening. Lesson plans in the curriculum target behavior change in three specific areas: increasing fruit, vegetable, whole grain, and nonfat or low-fat milk consumption; increasing physical activity; and balancing calorie intake with calories expended. The curriculum can be implemented with a garden of any size or type, and gardening activities are not required to complete any of the lessons.
This curriculum is well organized into nine units, each containing its own teacher background information, lesson plans, and student materials. Units are broken into four lessons with similar formats. Lessons vary in time requirements, so educators should plan accordingly. Most lessons include games and activities, for which handouts are provided. Outside supplies may be called for to implement the curriculum, including cooking supplies, gardening supplies, and general school supplies. Not all supplies are necessary to complete the curriculum, and a list of creative ideas on how to create a garden with little to no budget is included.
Each unit includes one lesson with a food demonstration and one lesson with a journal writing prompt. Recipes are provided for the some of cooking demonstration. Recipes use low cost, readily available, nutritious ingredients. Nutrition information for the recipes is not provided. The “garden journals” are unique curriculum components where students can keep the vocabulary, recipe, and their response for each unit. These interactive journals help enforce the lesson concepts and keep the students engaged.
While Growing Healthy Habits teaches gardening concepts, it is not a manual for growing food. The main focus of the lessons is food and nutrition. Concepts from MyPyramid are stressed, including eating a variety of fruits and vegetables for optimum health. Food safety is also emphasized throughout the curriculum. Growing a garden complements the nutrition lessons, and may require accessing additional gardening information or assistance from experienced gardeners. Information on how to access additional gardening resources is provided.
The curriculum is specific to the state of Maryland but can be altered to be used in other states. It was created to correspond with the Maryland growing season. A recommended month for each lesson is provided, which may need to be changed to match the growing season in different areas. In addition, Growing Healthy Habits was designed to meet Maryland State curriculum objectives and tables are included to demonstrate where the curriculum meets the different content areas – health, math, reading,/English/language arts, science, and social studies.
Growing Healthy Habits was created for students in grades one through five; however, some of the concepts and vocabulary presented in the lessons (such as photosynthesis, monoculture, germination and chlorophyll) are more difficult and may need to be adapted for younger students. The curriculum notes that all lessons have been successfully adapted and used with students in pre-kindergarten through high school, including special education. The curriculum may be used as an in-school or after-school program.
The entire Growing Healthy Habits curriculum is available to download and print from the Maryland Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) Program Web site, including the binder covers and spine files, making it easy for other educators to create their own curriculum kit.