Soil to snack

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Through the preparation of a snack students learn about the origins of their food ingredients and place it within the context of larger systems and sub-systems. 

Essential Understanding:

U1 Learning can be joyful, empowering, and inspire a sense of wonder.
U3 Choices people make can have positive impacts on their environment and community.

Knowledge and Skills developed:

K5 Students will know that systems are made up of subsystems and have inputs and outputs:

  • most food (output) grows from soil (part of a bigger system)
  • soil is made up of by-products from invertebrates (i.e. bug poop) healthy soil ecosystem maintains healthy plants 
  • adding compost (input) to soil contributes to the health of the bigger system (garden soil) and food we eat (output)

K7 Students will know that kids’ choices and actions make a difference:

  • “You are what you eat”- eating fresh, good food is good for your health


Students will:

  • Learn about food systems and the inputs and outputs contributing to the growing of food items. 
  • Understand how daily choices affect their impact(s) on the environment and health.


  • Work as a team to successfully prepare a snack
  • Demonstrate understanding of the relationship between food and the ecosystem/community
  • Connect lesson  to food preparation practices back at home

Age group: 4th-6th

Venue/s: Garden or dining hall

Materials: items from the garden and kitchen

Time: 1 hr - 1 hr 30 minutes

Set up: Share harvest safety before entering garden


In the Garden


Share safety of the space before entering the garden. Explore the Garden through the scavenger hunt. Through conversation, connect students’ lives at home through food and gardens. As an example, students can share what they are growing at home or if they have ever eaten food that was really fresh, etc. Where have they ever picked/harvested something directly from a plant and eaten it?

The core lesson:

In the garden (20-30 minutes)
Students will explore the compost bins and discuss how organic matter turns into soil with the assistance from the FBI (fungus, bacteria, and invertebrates). While harvesting food, students will discuss growing plants in different seasons and why we can have most fruits/vegetables year round in the supermarket but not in our garden. The average food item in the United States travels 3000 miles to get to our house. (


Bring together garden theme before kitchen (food comes from bug poo, fresh food tastes different, etc)

In the kitchen


Inspiration on cooking, creation and linking to students’ home

Prepare a snack (As students work, encourage discussion of their favorite foods coming from soil. i.e. Cheetos, cheese, meat, etc.)

Closure- cooking is empowering, food vs. food like substances, food comes from soil

Closing Questions

Why do we need food? Where does food come from? Why should we eat healthy food?

Safety Considerations:

• taste only with permission
• avoid running
• walk only on the paths, and not on the raised concrete block borders
• Cob oven is VERY hot-keep a safe distance from it
• Wash hands before any prep
• Demo how to harvest plants safely
• Demo safe cutting, chopping, peeling

The Garden Educator will ask children to take a polite bite and spit out something if they do not want to eat it. Children do not have to eat anything they do not want to eat.

Background information

Earth (Cob) Oven:

Cob has been used as a building material and for ovens on every continent except Antartica (Clay and Cob buildings, John McCann). Cob refers to a mixture of clay, sand and straw. Cob ovens work by storing the fires heat within the thick thermal mass of the oven walls. When the fire is pulled out, the walls can radiate back into the oven for many hours. Houses can also be made out of Cob. In Devon, England there are over 10,000 cob homes. Cob can be made locally, is easy to work with (our oven was built by sixth graders) and is very durable.


A handful of soil contains more microorganisms than there are people on the planet! ( for more info on the basics of compost ecology)


Extensive epidemiological evidence suggests that a diet high in fruits and vegetables provides a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer (

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