One of the keys to eating nutritious, fresh recipes is being aware of what produce grows best in which season.

When many of us can get produce from all over the world at any time of year -- and others have limited exposure to fresh produce -- it often takes a school garden, hands-on experiences with planting and harvesting, and experiences with preparing and eating in-season foods for children to understand and appreciate seasonal produce.

Knowledge and appreciation for seasonality is a core outcome of FoodPrints, underlined by the DC Environmental Literacy Framework, Common Core Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards -- all which expect students to recognize patterns, such as the cycle of the seasons.
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Patterns is one of the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: "Patterns exist everywhere - in regularly occurring shapes or structures and in repeating events and relationships. For example, patterns are discernible in the symmetry of flowers and snowflakes, the cycling of the seasons, and the repeated base pairs of DNA."

In FoodPrints classes, students are introduced to seasonally appropriate foods each month. They grow these same foods in their school gardens, and use them in investigations and lessons aligned to the curriculum and standards.

For example, in October, students may study, cook, and eat broccoli and sweet potatoes. In May, they harvest radishes and carrots. The experience of seeing produce grow in their gardens reinforces seasonality: they understand why fragile strawberries and tomatoes don’t grow in the winter but hardier plants like kale and collards are able to survive the cold. 

Students in younger grades understand how plants change over time, how the garden changes over time and why. FoodPrints teachers encourage students to observe and describe -- both by drawing and writing -- what plants and animals need to survive.

As part of this lesson, 1st graders at School Within School drew their favorite fruit or vegetable in each season:
Older students create seasonality charts using pictures and planting/harvesting information from seed catalogs. They divide a poster board up into four sections, one for each season, and then fill them with food that is harvested in each season. They draw from their harvesting experiences in their school gardens to help guide their thinking. This project always generates important discussion about why strawberries can’t grow in our school gardens in Washington, DC in the winter, but there are plenty of strawberries in our grocery stores year round.
This fall, third graders at Tyler Elementary determined which ingredients in the recipes they were preparing were in season locally. They discussed FoodPrints class talked about the importance of buying local. Students said:
  • “We support local farmers when we shop at farmers markets." 
  • "Buying local cuts back on cost/fuel from trucks driving across the country.” 
  • "There’s less chemicals and pesticides used if the produce doesn't have to travel as far."
  • "Produce tastes fresher!"
 


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