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Third Graders Explore Healthy Eating

November 28, 2017
Youth in cafeteria

We know that healthy food provides the energy and nutrients young people need to be healthy. Lack of education regarding the definition of healthy food poses a problem. Nearly all school age children rely on their caregivers for subsistence but often they make their own decisions about what they will eat or discard while at school. Of the 50 states, Kids Count statistics show that in 2016 Indiana ranked 31st in regards to overall child health. According the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 32.7% of Steuben County adults are considered obese. If not redirected at an early age, generational obesity could curse those who remain uneducated about proper nutrition. Gardening can increase activity, reduce screen time, and lead to a healthier diet.

The 4‑H Youth Development Extension Educator, the Healthy and Human Sciences Extension Educator, and the Ag and Natural Resources/Community Development Extension Educator of the Purdue Extension Office utilized their talents to implement “Eat Your Way to Better Health” at Carlin Park Elementary, a school in which over 50% of the students receive free or reduced lunches. Fifty 3rd grade students gardened and learned about healthy eating.

Youth were provided lessons on resource management (spending wisely when building a garden with limited funds), healthier snack options (fat, sugar, and salt in favorite kid’s snack foods), eating a rainbow (phytonutrients), the process of food (how food gets from the farm to the table), edible plant parts, and food safety.

The youth learned new vocabulary in regards to seeds and plants. They dissected hydrolyzed lima beans and compared and contrasted them to dry beans, and they made a Living Seed Necklace in which we discussed the items needed for a seed to germinate and a plant to grow. They also discovered soil structure, plant life cycles, plant competition, insect diversity, and plant diseases. The students observed the harvested produce and celebrated their learning by eating a colorful salad containing roots, stems, leaves, and flowers. ; You do not have access to modify this field.
The 4‑H Youth Development Extension Educator, the Healthy and Human Sciences Extension Educator, and the Ag and Natural Resources/Community Development Extension Educator of the Purdue Extension Office utilized their talents to implement “Eat Your Way to Better Health” at Carlin Park Elementary, a school in which over 50% of the students receive free or reduced lunches. Fifty 3rd grade students gardened and learned about healthy eating.

Youth were provided lessons on resource management (spending wisely when building a garden with limited funds), healthier snack options (fat, sugar, and salt in favorite kid’s snack foods), eating a rainbow (phytonutrients), the process of food (how food gets from the farm to the table), edible plant parts, and food safety.

The youth learned new vocabulary in regards to seeds and plants. They dissected hydrolyzed lima beans and compared and contrasted them to dry beans, and they made a Living Seed Necklace in which we discussed the items needed for a seed to germinate and a plant to grow. They also discovered soil structure, plant life cycles, plant competition, insect diversity, and plant diseases. The students observed the harvested produce and celebrated their learning by eating a colorful salad containing roots, stems, leaves, and flowers.

After tabulating results of the post‑evaluation, 94% of the respondents indicated they understood what plants need to survive, 78% understood what conditions are conducive to plant disease, 80% exhibited they knew proper understanding of plant competition, and 87% showed they understood soil structure. Of the respondents, 66% had tried a new fruit or vegetable since starting the school garden, and 87% were willing to try a new fruit or vegetable as a result of gardening at school. 80% indicated that they learned more about gardening and science as a result of the program. 85% indicated that learning about science in the garden was fun and 87% will share what they learned about gardening with their friends and family.

Observations from Extension Educators and School Teachers: During the "salad party" for the last session, students had three salad dressing choices, but none were ranch dressing. In the absence of ranch dressing nearly one third of student forewent using any dressings on their salads.

3rd grade is when the school starts offering a salad bar, but teachers have noticed that many kids do not know what vegetables they like, so they forego getting the salad bar. For this reason, it would have more if we offered the gardening program in the fall, when new 3rd graders are just beginning to explore the salad bar.

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