Food-Based Science Curriculum Increases 4th Graders Multidisciplinary Science Knowledge

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Abstract

Health professionals and policymakers are asking educators to place more emphasis on food and nutrition education. Integrating these topics into science curricula using hand-on, food-based activities may strengthen students’ understanding of science concepts. The Food, Math, and Science Teaching Enhancement Resource (FoodMASTER) Initiative is a compilation of programs aimed at using food as a tool to teach mathematics and science. Previous studies have shown that students experiencing the FoodMASTER curriculum were very excited about the activities, became increasingly interested in the subject matter of food, and were able to conduct scientific observations. The purpose of this study was to: (1) assess 4th graders food-related multidisciplinary science knowledge, and (2) compare gains in food-related science knowledge after implementation of an integrated, food-based curriculum. During the 2009–2010 school year, FoodMASTER researchers implemented a hands-on, food-based intermediate curriculum in eighteen 4th grade classrooms in Ohio (n = 9) and North Carolina (n = 9). Sixteen classrooms in Ohio (n = 8) and North Carolina (n = 8), following their standard science curricula, served as comparison classrooms. Students completed a researcher-developed science knowledge exam, consisting of 13 multiple-choice questions administered pre- and post-test. Only subjects with pre- and post-test scores were entered into the sample (Intervention n = 343; Control n = 237). No significant differences were observed between groups at pre-test. At post-test, the intervention group scored (9.95 ± 2.00) significantly higher (p = 0.000) than the control group (8.84 ± 2.37) on a 13-point scale. These findings suggest the FoodMASTER intermediate curriculum is more effective than a standard science curriculum in increasing students’ multidisciplinary science knowledge related to food.

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