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Choice, Control, & Change Curriculum: Bringing Healthful Habits to LiFE

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C3: Voices from the Field
“We love C3 because it leads to behavior change, not just knowledge,” say educators from the EAT.RIGHT.NOW. nutrition education program in the Philadelphia school district. “The curriculum is set up to draw in students, build on their personal experiences, and provoke discussion. Students in sixth to ninth grade tend to have more control over their food choices; C3 helps them apply what they learn when they visit their corner stores and fast food places.

“Teachers love the lessons because they are hands-on and don’t just wag a finger at students. Rather, they build knowledge and empower students to make their own choices. C3 is about gaining the ability to make better choices by setting small attainable goals, keeping track, and seeing where you stand – rather than feeling that you have to be perfect or tackle big sweeping changes.”

“C3 helped my students gain a basic understanding of nutrition and how their habits affect their health,” says seventh grade Michigan teacher Aleta Damm. “Students are unaware of the influences on their eating and exercise habits. C3 gives me the vehicle to provide my students with important information in a meaningful way. It involves lots of discussions, sharing of experiences, talking through scenarios, and thinking out loud. The hands-on experiences help students visualize concepts, and there is a lot of personal reflection.

“The activity that used homemade Play Dough to help students visualize how much fat and sugar are in everyday foods was eye awakening for them. We were then able to have some good discussions and we referred back to these often. I hope their experiences will create lifelong habits down the road.”

What influences our food and activity choices? What do we notice about the food labels on packaged snacks? How can we balance the food energy we take in with the physical energy we expend? These are some of the questions that middle school students tackle when their teachers use Choice, Control, & Change (C3), the newest curriculum guide in the Linking Food and the Environment Series (LiFE) published by Teachers College at Columbia University and the National Gardening Association.

Schoolyard Tributes

Memorial Gardens Flourish

One blooming schoolyard oasis offers solace, hope, and healing as it honors lives lost in an urban community. Elsewhere, an annual Memorial Day planting ceremony becomes a springboard for discussing what peace can look like in daily life. Across the country – and beyond – schoolyard and community gardens have been created or enhanced to serve as living memorials to people and ideals.

Exploring Toxicity

Grade: 9-12

Objective: Students will explore and investigate different chemical concentrations to determine the dose-response for seed toxicity. They will gain an understanding of the basic principles of toxicology.

Time: 1 hour, plus time for observing the results of the investigation


Researching the Past, to Discover the Future

Grade Level: 8-12


  • Posterboard for six groups of students


1. As a class, list what the students think are the most important plants for their nation. Discuss why each of these plants may be on the list. Ask the students to give a general location of where these plants (regions and climates) are grown.

Planning Pays Off

Elementary science teacher Steve Tomsik feels that it is his primary job to get his students into the garden as much as possible because of the great extensions between knowledge and exploration.

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Nutrition Program Highlights

  • The school now maintains a partnership with Wellness in the Schools, an organization that has facilitated a gradual change in lunch meals, and provides chefs and cooking interns who work with cafeteria staff to prepare healthy lunches. The lunch menu now offers freshly prepared meals (including an occasional special lunch of grass-fed beef) with a daily salad bar. They have also held parent-lunch days to show how the lunches have improved.

  • The school sponsors a Harvest Day each year in October to showcase food harvested from the garden. Students enjoy a special lunch (with available garden produce), tasting tables, visits from local farmers, and Garden to School Café programs. Pictures of the Harvest Day can be seen on the school’s website.

Maple Syrup, Step-by-Step

- Maple Syrup
- Sugarbush Spring by Marsha Wilson Chall. A girl and her grandfather tap sugar maple trees and tell the story of making maple syrup. ISBN: 978-0688149079


1. Hold up a bottle of maple syrup and ask the students if they know how syrup is produced?

2. Tell the students that syrup comes from trees, but do not tell them how it is extracted.

Be the Tree

- Tree cookies, for each student (can be cut from tree trimmings or available in bulk from nature suppliers like Nature-Watch)


The tree trunk and its main branches have five key parts, as illustrated by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Sugar Snow

- Types of sugar (i.e., maple syrup, molasses, white sugar, brown sugar, honey), enough for each student to sample
- Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Share Chapter 7: The Sugar Snow, pg. 117-130. An excellent account of tapping trees for maple sugar. ISBN:  978-0060797508

Baking Bread to Nurture Cultural Understanding

When Ginger Clarke’s kindergarteners participated in the harvesting of their first school garden, yanking zucchini was surely a highlight. But then came the taste test. “None of the kids liked it either raw or cooked,” says Ginger. Determined to find a way to get students to try the versatile vegetable, Ginger invited the class to use it to make bread from scratch. It was a hands-down hit. “The kids were amazed by how much they loved it,” she explains.

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Kids Gardening and the National Gardening Association actively work with schools and communities across the country to provide educational resources and build gardens to promote health, wellness, and sustainability.


Copyright © 1999-2014 National Gardening Association     | &      |     Created on 03/15/99, 

Last updated on 03/26/2015
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