Rose Getch, Communications Director
National Gardening Association
(800) 538-7476, ext. 129
UC Berkeley Media Relations
South Burlington, Vermont (May 5, 2008) - The National Gardening Association (NGA) is very excited to introduce Botany on Your Plate: Investigating the Plants We Eat, a new curriculum created by the Education Department of the University of California Botanical Garden in Berkeley, California. NGA publishes and sells the book through the Gardening with Kids catalog and online store. This photo-illustrated and engaging 88-page book features hands-on lessons that are closely tied to national education standards for grades K-4.
The Botany on Your Plate curriculum weaves together nutrition, mathematics, language arts, and social studies with investigative plant science. Students begin each lesson by tasting fruits and vegetables (edible plant parts), which sparks curiosity, interesting questions, and social dialogue that fuel the learning process. The curriculum was piloted by formal and informal educators nationwide; it was met with enthusiasm and positive feedback from all involved, from teachers and students to school administrators, and has already been adopted by a number of school districts.
The inquiry-based approach to the lessons invites children to become botanists who dissect edible plants, observe and collect data, discuss findings, and reflect on what they have learned. In the process, they build evidence gathering and critical thinking skills, and content knowledge in science and nutrition. In a study measuring the effects of the curriculum on food preference, 95 percent of the students assessed after working with Botany on Your Plate reported that they seek out and eat more fruits and vegetables when making dietary choices. One 3rd grader commented, "Now I eat more fruit for snacks. When I didn't know Botany on Your Plate, I thought fruits were gross. Now I like them better than sweets."
Botany on Your Plate Program Coordinator Christine Manoux finds that teachers use the curriculum in a variety of ways to achieve academic goals for their students. "Teachers tell us that the interactive nature of the activities and the rich vocabulary that emerges is wonderful for engaging their English Language Learners. The beauty of produce has also inspired art and poetry projects. The curriculum can truly be used across disciplines."
During piloting, the authors discovered another, unexpected, benefit of the curriculum: increased parental involvement. Co-author Jennifer White, Emeritus Associate Director for Education, says, "In many classrooms, parents with limited-English language skills found that sharing with students how they prepare different foods became their own first step in volunteering in their children's schools. This helps the children, the parents, and the entire school community."
The Garden at the University of California, Berkeley, is a living museum open to the public featuring one of the most diverse plant collections in the United States, and extensive education and outreach programs serving schools and community groups throughout California and the nation. Established in 1890, the Garden's 34 acres contain over 12,000 different kinds of plants and more than 20,000 accessions from all over the world arranged by region. The mission of the Garden is to develop and maintain a diverse living collection of plants to support teaching and worldwide research in plant biology, further the conservation of plant diversity, and promote public understanding and appreciation of plants and the natural environment. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu
The National Gardening Association (NGA), founded in 1972, is a national nonprofit leader in plant-based education. NGA's mission is to promote school, community, and home gardening as a means to renew and sustain the essential connection between people, plants, and the environment. To fulfill this mission NGA offers publications and programs focused on five core areas: plant-based education, health and wellness, environmental stewardship, community development, and responsible home gardening. For more information, visit www.kidsgardening.org.