Middle School Nourish Unit at St. Alcuin Montessori in Dallas

Educator: Margaret Watrous

School: St. Alcuin Montessori, Dallas, TX

Subjects: International Baccalaureate (IB)

Grade: 6-8

Number of students: 15

Website: https://sites.google.com/a/students.saintalcuin.org/food-culture/

How are you teaching about food, health, and sustainability?
As an IB school, the technology curriculum encompasses good nutrition and meal planning. As seventh graders, students study general nutrition and how to prepare balanced, healthy meals. They are given a budget of $150 and are challenged to create and prepare a lunch for all middle school students and staff (approximately 50 people). Then in eighth grade, students still plan and prepare a lunch for everyone, but our approach is learning about where our food comes from and how we can support a healthy eating initiative.

How are you using the Nourish resources?
I have created a website using the materials from Nourish, so the students are able to access everything they need either at school or at home. The Nourish Unit is a perfect fit with our IB curriculum, because it allows students to explore, create projects, and form opinions based on what they have learned, not only from the Nourish resources but from each other as well.

What activities, projects, or inquiry questions have students engaged in?

  • Specific activities include Skyping with a class in the UK; comparing and contrasting local, seasonal foods; setting up a blog where we can discuss our ideas and opinions between classes; and challenging each class to create a project that addresses the ideas presented from the Nourish resources.
  • I have scheduled a local chef, who uses local produce in her restaurant, to come and speak with the students.
  • We are having a tasting challenge. In a blind taste test, students will be comparing local, seasonal fruit (peaches) and vegetables (tomatoes) from our local farmer’s market to those purchased at the local supermarket chain. This test will also include a sampling of grass and corn-fed beef. Students will complete an online survey to see which they preferred.
  • After we complete the Nourish Unit, students will be required to plan, create, and develop their own restaurant, complete with a Financial Statement, Brand & Logo, Menus, Floor Plans, and a commercial (see the website).

What effect has Nourish had on your students’ understanding of food system issues?
Several students have commented that they are now not as inclined to eat fast food because of the highly processed menu items. Currently, they are in the process of creating their Food Story posters, and are excited to learn more about the products they have chosen to represent. This activity alone has made them more aware of reading labels to find out what is in their food as well as where it comes from. The overall climate of the classroom is one of engagement, and it definitely has the students’ attention, because when you get right down to it, who doesn’t love food?

What conversations have resulted from using Nourish? What are some next steps?
We are still on the front end of using the Nourish resources, but my hope is that the students will want to start a school garden, which will provide food items for the student lunches they are required to prepare throughout the school year. Since the eighth grade students are the oldest students at our school, it would be a lasting legacy for this group, knowing they were leaving behind something that would be supported and used for years to come even after they have left our school.

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