At farm-based Aullwood Head Start Preschool, children take charge of their learning while cooking with popcorn from the farm.  Read the full story below.
Photo courtesy of Miami Valley Child Development Centers, Inc.

In this issue:
  • Tracking national trends: Slight declines in obesity for children
  • Creating Healthier Environments webinar, March 6th
  • Health Aware Conference, Washington D.C., April 11th
  • Activity spotlight and book recommendation
  • Case study: Learning through cooking

Tracking national trends: Slight declines in obesity for children

Recent reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) are providing some of the first signs of slight decreases in childhood obesity. The key? Comprehensive approaches to health and wellness, such as First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Child Care campaign, where Farm to Preschool fits right in!

Read more about the CDC study here and the RWJF report here.

Creating Healthier Environments webinar, March 6th

Wednesday, March 6, 2-3 p.m., Eastern: Register here to join Let's Move! Child Care for a free webinar, "Creating Healthier Environments: New and Upcoming Team Nutrition Resources for Providers," based on the "Nutrition and Wellness Tips for Young Children: Provider Handbook for the Child Care and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)." This meal and activity planning resource for preschool-age children age 2 through 5 is full of ideas and tips that can help you — or the programs you support — make changes and meet the Let's Move! Child Care goals to help children grow up healthy. Download the handbook here.

Health Aware Conference in Washington D.C., April 11th

Health Aware, part of the 2013 Child Care Aware of America Policy Symposium, will bring regional child care professionals and wellness experts together to develop healthy eating and physical activity strategies for young children. Learn more and register here.

Activity spotlight: Cabbage exploration

Help children gain confidence in trying new foods and become familiar with a new vegetable: cabbage! Partner this fun activity with a reading of The Giant Cabbage, by Cherie Stihler.

Children's learning is strengthened while cooking with farm fresh ingredients

The Aullwood Head Start Preschool at Aullwood Audubon Farm in Dayton, Ohio opened its doors to children ages 3-5 in August 2012. The preschool is located on a 180 acre working farm and nature center, considered to be one of the premier Audubon centers in the United States. Teachers quickly began to realize the endless opportunities of teaching on a farm; Brandy Mayes, lead teacher for Miami Valley Child Development, Inc., speaks to how the center keeps their Farm to Preschool activities going all year long:

We all love popcorn! As harvest time came to a close, we thought our opportunities to explore farm fresh produce and food were coming to a close, as well. We had already enjoyed blueberry pancakes, quiche, and freshly picked tomatoes, squash, and peppers. So, when we began receiving dried items from the garden, we were excited to see that popcorn still on the cob was included. During the children's play time, we introduced them to this new kind of corn. Engaging their senses, we encouraged them to touch and smell it, and then pull the kernels off of the cob. We discussed how to cook it, and pulled out our electric skillet. At this point most of the class was engaged in the activity.

An opportunity for broader learning: While the popcorn was cooking, the children transformed the classroom into a popcorn-serving restaurant. Three of the children became waiters and waitresses. Many of the children volunteered to be customers (sometimes very demanding customers). Several children created a menu and one child even excitedly announced that he was the bus boy. The children completely took charge of their learning as they ate, served, and cleaned up during this experience. When problems arose, such as how to serve the popcorn, the children worked together to create solutions. This simple cooking experience, placed in the hands of the children, not only taught them where food comes from, but also taught vital skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, social roles, and collaboration. Food is a powerful teaching tool!

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