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Development and evaluation of a garden-enhanced nutrition education curriculum for elementary schoolchildren

Morris, Jennifer L., Briggs, Marilyn, Zidenberg-Cherr, Sheri
The Journal of child nutrition & management 2002 v.26 no.2
cafeterias, child nutrition, cognition, curriculum, elementary education, fruits, gardeners, gardening, gardens, harvesting, nutrition education, nutrition knowledge, professionals, questionnaires, school children, schools, students, surveys, teachers, vegetables, California
The purpose of this project was to develop a garden-enhanced nutrition education curriculum and relevant assessment tools that could be used for formal evaluation. The Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) provided the foundation for the objectives, activities, and evaluation. The curriculum was developed for upper-elementary schoolchildren and included nine key nutrition topics. Master gardeners linked each of the nutrition lessons to appropriate gardening activities, which provided students with the opportunity to plant and harvest their own vegetables. Each lesson was field tested in several classrooms until the content and delivery of the material was appropriate. The final lessons consisted of a nutrition lesson, a gardening activity, a family newsletter, and other useful information for teachers. Assessment tools used in the formal evaluation of the curriculum included a nutrition knowledge questionnaire and a vegetable preference survey. The preference survey asked students to taste six different vegetables, rate their preferences, and answer four questions related to their knowledge of and behavior toward the vegetables. Nutrition and gardening professionals reviewed the lessons and assessment tools for accuracy prior to the formal evaluation. Three schools participated in the formal evaluation of the curriculum. One school served as a control site and did not receive any nutrition lessons or gardening activities (CO), a second school received only the nutrition lessons and did not participate in any gardening activities (NL), and a third school received both the nutrition lessons and gardening activities (NG). Evaluation took place before the intervention (pre-test), after the intervention (post-test), and six months later (follow-up). This report focuses on selected knowledge and behavior results from the vegetable preference survey. The NG site results demonstrated improvements in knowledge and behavior at post-test and at follow-up. The garden-enhanced nutrition curriculum described herein is an effective means of teaching nutrition education to elementary schoolchildren. The incorporation of gardening activities further enhanced its effectiveness. The lessons have been linked to applicable California State Content Standards to assist teachers in developing lesson plans to teach core subjects. This program also provides an excellent opportunity for foodservice staff and teachers to work together. Extra fruits and vegetables from the garden can be offered at the school cafeteria. This may lower foodservice costs, as well as provide students with opportunities to try new fruits and vegetables.