Healthy Eating Habits Lesson Plan: Organic and Locally Grown Foods

Submitted by: Linda Fischl Southworth

Grade Levels: 6-8

In this multi-day lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6 through 8, students use BrainPOP resources to build awareness of the natural world and make connections to fresh, locally grown foods, organic farming methods, and a school garden. Students will learn to increase healthy eating habits by growing, harvesting, and eating more fresh fruit, veggies, and herbs at school, as well as working with school lunch staff to incorporate garden items into a lunch menu. Students will also visit a local farm stand, organic market, or restaurant to learn about the importance of locally grown produce and present their findings to others.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Increase healthful eating by growing, harvesting, and eating more fresh fruit, veggies, and herbs at school.
  2. Build awareness of the natural world and make connections to fresh, locally grown foods, organic farming methods, and a school garden.
  3. Work with school lunch staff to incorporate garden items into a lunch menu.

Materials:

  • Access to BrainPOP to view Organic Food movie and related resources
  • An established school garden program with safe soil
  • Paper/markers to make garden plan with planting map of garden site
  • Garden tools: rake, pitchfork, trowels and gloves
  • Seeds, plants, and organic fertilizer or compost
  • Garden caretaker calendar

Vocabulary:

fresh, community gardens, community supported agriculture, sustainability, locally grown, organic farming, manure and compost, pesticides, genetically modified, radiation, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Preparation:

Preview the movie and read through the Organic Food FYI resources to further your understanding of the topic. You may also wish to compile web and local community gardening resources for students to use during the planning and planting of their school garden. Define garden objectives to help map out cross-curricular lesson plans, activities, and work needed to support the garden. Organize a class field trip to visit a local farm, farmers’ market, farm stand, community garden, or other place that sells fruits or vegetables grown locally.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Discuss: Ask students to discuss what they remember about their field trip, the people met, the different types of locally grown food, and what factors made the experience memorable. Talk about what it means to “eat organic” and to “eat locally.”
  2. Show the Organic Food movie. Pause as needed throughout the movie to respond to questions and develop understanding about different types of organic and healthy food choices.
  3. Ask students why they think eating fresh, organic or locally grown food is important. Create a list of their suggestions on the board.
  4. Plan: Divide students into heterogeneous small groups to work together on various aspects of the garden project, such as: Design/Planners, Gardeners, or Community Liaison.
  5. Design the garden plot map (planting plan) and make a caretaker plan (daily chart of who will water and weed the garden).
  6. Purchase herb, veggie, and flower seeds and/or seedlings.
  7. Form student, school, and parent volunteer garden committee and assign tasks.
  8. Grow: Prepare soil and fertilize using compost or organic materials.
  9. Plant seeds/seedlings.
  10. Follow daily watering/weeding caretaker plan.
  11. Harvest: Students gather herbs and produce grown.
  12. One student group can work with the lunchroom staff to plan a menu to incorporate the fresh grown produce into a school lunch for all to enjoy.
  13. Connect: Help students make the fresh/local connection by contacting a farmer or produce manager of a health food store, farm stand, market, or restaurant which buys or promotes locally grown foods. Invite the person to the classroom or take students on a field trip so they can conduct an interview. Prepare your interviewers by brainstorming questions to ask, such as: Why do your customers want food grown locally? Why do you think it’s a good idea? How are local foods different from those that come from far away? What is the difference in cost? Discuss the importance of asking questions that require more than yes or no answers.
  14. Use this information and garden experience to create a PSA about locally grown produce. Each group should write a script or create a plan to perform their PSA. For student reference, leave on the board the class' list of reasons why eating fresh, organic or local produce is important. Groups may plan to act out their skit live or record it as a video clip or movie. Alternatively, students might create a PSA print advertisement or multi-media presentation.
  15. Provide the groups with time to create their presentations. Remind students that their focus should be on educating their peers about the edible schoolyard, organic or locally grown produce and explaining how it benefits the community. Students can discuss the progress they've made toward a healthier lifestyle by eating more fresh, locally grown food.

Extension Activity:

Engage students in a problem-based learning project to identify food-related problems in their own communities and then take action to remedy the problem. For example, students can conduct a nutritional, economic, or social justice analysis of the food that is served in their school cafeteria. You may wish to partner with organizations like Just Food, Farm to School, or The Edible Schoolyard to increase awareness and action around food, farm issues or your school’s food options.

Learn more about Michelle Obama’s Let's Move initiative and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, then start an education campaign to teach classmates about good nutrition and making healthy choices in the school cafeteria.