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We Are What We Eat: The Food & Agricultural Science Program

Wednesday, October 14, 2015



This fall, CDS teachers Analise Heid and Katina Papson-Rigby are leading the new middle school Food and Agricultural Sciences (FAS) Program, a fantastic and forward-thinking addition to the CDS curriculum. Their vision is to teach students how their choices about food affect their health, the environment and their communities. Along with students participating in all aspects of growing, harvesting and cooking nutritious seasonal food, students will engage with experts in the fields of plant biology, soil chemistry and food science to understand the science and future of food. The course includes integrated curriculum: agricultural science, food systems, domestication of crops, food and culinary sciences, social issues and environmental impacts. 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 microbiologists, scientists, universities, and food experts. In September, 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. Field trips include visits 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.


Food & Agricultural Science 1


And 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 and
  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.


Food & Agricultural Science 2


How will they demonstrate their learning? Using art, technology and creative storytelling, students will 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, human’s digestive biome and social issues surrounding policy and industry in reforming the food system.


Food & Agricultural Science 3


Throughout the course students learn about CPG’s (Consumer Processed Goods), nutritional information, and food marketing strategies, and engage the science of taste, flavor and aroma to create a recipe for a health bar. Through an “Iron Chef” simulated activity, students will make their health bars and then be judged by expert local chefs on the following criteria: nutrition, taste, flavor, packaging/labeling and marketing.

The Food and Agricultural Sciences program seeks to build on the lower school Farm and Garden Program, helping our students understand the intricate relationship between the physical earth and the living planet, environmental awareness, and our health as a direct result of the foods we eat.