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Food and Agricultural Sciences

Middle School Food and Agricultural Sciences (FAS) Program

The Food and Agricultural Sciences (FAS) Program is an organic progression of the Lower School Farm and Garden curriculum that takes full advantage of the technology and space offered by the 601 Dolores middle school building. The vision is to teach students how their choices about food affect their health, the environment, and their communities. Students will participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting, and cooking nutritious seasonal food, and they will also engage with experts in the fields of plant biology, soil chemistry, and food science to understand the science and future of food. The course features an integrated curriculum: agricultural science, food systems, domestication of crops, food and culinary sciences, social issues, and environmental impact. Students’ hands-on experience in the lab, kitchen, and garden fosters a deeper appreciation of the way the natural world sustains us and promotes the environmental and social well-being of our school and the greater community.

For the FAS program, CDS students and teachers work in collaboration with plant- and micro-biologists, scientists, universities, and food experts. In the past year, Heather Wright, plant biologist at Stanford, worked with the sixth and eighth graders on extracting DNA from strawberries. Dr. Rajnish Khanna, a plant molecular biologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford, led a lesson on the domestication of maize from the ancient teosinte plant from Mexico. Upcoming visiting experts include a culinary scientist, an agricultural biochemist and a biomedical scientist. We've also planned field trips to labs at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis, as well as farms in the bay area and local aquaponics operations in Half Moon Bay and in the Mission District.

What will our students learn?  The sixth grade Food Science course engages students in understanding the difference between food systems:

1. local/sustainable

2. industrialized/conventional

3. hunted/gathered/gardened

4. industrialized organic farming

Throughout the course, students gain knowledge and experience in the global implications of different food systems by understanding the journey, process, and impacts our food has on our health and the environment. Through hands-on experiential learning, students are introduced to topics that include domestication of crops, global ecological impacts of agriculture, plant genetics, and soil and gut microbiome.

Students demonstrate their learning using art, technology, and creative storytelling. They choose a vegetable or fruit and research its life from farm to table to illustrate the complexity of the global food system. They interview farmers, plant biologists, food scientists, and industry professionals to understand the food system of which their vegetable or fruit is a part. Students research seed source, planting strategy, fertilizer and pesticide applications, harvest, transport, seasonality and availability in market, processing or lack of, and finished product.

The seventh and eighth grade Food Science course engages students in the science of nutrition and agriculture. They explore healthy eating through culinary science, focusing on understanding the story of our food and how it relates to culture, nutrition and sustainability. Through hands-on experiential learning, students are engaged in topics that include the science of taste, flavor and aroma, plant genetics, humans' digestive biome, and social issues surrounding policy and industry in reforming the food system.