On Wednesday October 24th, the students at Learning Circle Preschool in Canton, MA will celebrate Food Day by hosting a Fall festival on the school grounds.
The festival will demonstrate what our children practice throughout the year as a part of Learning Circle’s curriculum and wider dedication to exposing students to sustainable living, nutrition, and the sciences.
My daughter, Austin, and her classmates learn how to cut and glue, how to write their letters and numbers, and how to sit in a circle for songs and books. They share their feelings and build relationships through play. The 3-6 year olds investigate shells and document starfish at their science tables all the while following the procedures and routines of a well run preschool program.
And they also practice seed-to-table healthy eating.
Learning Circle Preschool was inspired to bring the seed-to-table approach to their program by The Early Sprouts curriculum, created at Keene State University in New Hampshire. Early Sprouts is a gardening and nutrition curriculum working to increase children’s willingness to add healthy foods (especially fruits and vegetables) to their diets, to encourage school and family dietary improvements, and to address a national need to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.
Preschool students participating in Early Sprouts become connected to their food by learning how to grow, garden, harvest, and prepare healthy food on their school’s campus. They learn how our natural world can provide for us, they develop respect for the environment, and they discover the importance of making healthy food choices from a young age. Keene State’s curriculum addresses apprehension towards new foods by encouraging kids to get their hands dirty in the garden, kitchen, and around the table. Students explore new foods with as many senses as possible (Even if that taste sense is left out for awhile.), making new foods less intimidating and more fun.
Thursdays are cooking days in my daughter’s “Nuthatch” Pre-K classroom. After gathering as many ingredients as they can from their school garden (Swiss chard was popular this year!) children follow recipes to cre
ate simple and healthy snacks to share with their friends. Once prepared, children are encouraged to take a sample of the food they’ve prepared even if they don’t think they’ll like it. Even if they only look at (magnifying glasses are always handy), touch, or smell a new food they’ve made progress towards healthy eating.
And while I love that Austin has had this experience with her classmates, I’m even more excited about what she’s brought home.
Thursday afternoons, when I look through my nuthatch’s backpack, I find the recipe of the week along with a taste-test survey for our family to fill out. I work with my daughter (taking a great many directions from her since she’s done the recipe already) to chop, mix, stir and simmer until we have a snack or side dish to share with our family. Before everyone’s had a chance to swallow their first bite, she is walking around the table with a clipboard and survey to collect feedback from her dinner guests. On the survey, ou can like something a lot, like something a little, or not like something yet. Austin loves yet. And while it might seem like a small thing, she has started to talk about the foods she does and doesn’t eat as liking them or not liking them yet. This gives the parents of a picky eater hope that her tastes will eventually develop.
Among our family favorites are Swiss chard and cheddar quesadillas, Japanese green beans, honey mustard dip with veggies, and cherry tomato English muffin pizzas. But the green pepper couscous castles were Austin’s favorite. Maybe it was the way she got to sculpt small towers of couscous on each plate, but who cares? My daughter ate green peppers!
This year on Food Day, Learning Circle Preschool will reach out to the community to celebrate healthy, sustainable eating by inviting families to join for a Food Day Festival. Children will pick carrots from the garden, plant garlic for the spring, walk to a local farm, make scientific documentation of different fruits and vegetables, and use this fall’s harvest as a medium in an art project. We can hope that through this celebration, students and families will discover another new food or snack idea, and that they’ll give healthy, sustainable eating a try. Even if they don’t all like it yet.
Some of our family’s favorite food books:
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
Farm by Elisha Cooper
Water, Weed, and Wait by Edit Hope Fine
I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato (Charlie and Lola) by Lauren Child
For more information about Learning Circle Preschool or to plan a visit, please contact Katrina Selawsky at firstname.lastname@example.org
Early Sprouts (With even more resources and ideas)
Kids Gardening Great site with recommendations for students, parents, and teachers