Food waste lesson plans connect research to classrooms

Studen't hand places a sticker onto a paper hung on a board

Lesson plans provide opportunities for students to explore food security and food waste

An important part of the University of Guelph’s tradition is extension: taking research and putting it in the hands of those who will implement it. Now, researchers are giving teachers tools to take food research to their students, the change-makers of the future.

Professor Evan Fraser and Amanda Wilson-Ciocci, from the department of geography,  have created Unit Plans for high school teachers around the world on food security and food waste.

The unit plans, called #foodcrisis and Food Waste, have been distributed to over 200 teachers, from Ontario to as far away as Beijing, China and Adelaide, Australia. The unit plans include lesson plan ideas with curriculum guides, videos, quizzes, assignments and personal challenges to help students thoroughly examine these complex issues.

The most recent unit plan, Food Waste, is based on research by the Guelph Food Waste Research Project. Professor Kate Parizeau is a food waste expert at the University of Guelph and one of the leaders of the project. In June, she spoke at Guelph Talks Food about household food waste. A video of Prof. Parizeau’s talk, and several other videos featuring university food waste researchers, are included in the unit plan to help students get their “minds on” the topic.

The unit plan includes an opportunity for students to try a food waste audit, similar to the ones Prof. Parizeau and her team conduct. Teachers lead their students in collecting data by examining the school’s food waste and whether it was unavoidable, like banana skins and apple cores, or avoidable, which is food that could have been safely consumed.

Students then design and run an awareness campaign in their school. The campaigns are to be based on research and encourage their fellow students to change their behaviour and waste less food.

The unit plans fit into curriculum for Canadian and World Studies, Social Sciences and Humanities and Nutrition and Health courses. Wilson-Ciocci used her training in education to compile research-based content, design assignments and align them with curriculum.

The first unit plan, #foodcrisis, was based on Prof. Fraser’s food security research. Prof. Fraser has been interested in making his work easily accessible to the public since he began working at the University of Guelph. Beginning with a series of informational white board videos, Prof. Fraser created the Feeding 9 Billion program to inform the public about the planet’s challenge of feeding growing populations into the future. The Feeding 9 Billion program has since expanded to include a graphic novel, essays, courses, events and the unit plans.

To receive a unit plan for your classroom, email Amanda at awilsonc@uoguelph.ca