Cecilia Gray, a teacher at Pottsville High School was one of 30 teachers nationwide chosen to complete a food science training program developed and implemented in a partnership between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and Graduate School USA. The one-week program for middle and high school science teachers, as well as family and consumer science and health education teachers, took place in Washington during the summer.
The training is part of the FDA/NSTA Professional Development Program in Food Science, a sustained effort to train U.S. teachers to use FDA’s curriculum in their classrooms nationwide and train additional teachers in their area of the country. The goal of the program is to educate teachers and students about critical food safety issues such as foodborne illnesses by exploring the science behind them. The program arms teachers with a unique topic and curriculum with which to teach science. In addition, participants learn about nutrition, food allergies, cosmetics safety, and color additives from FDA experts. The teachers also receive nutrition education material to help teach their students how to use the Nutrition Facts label to make better food choices.
“Many teenage students have jobs in the food service industry or have food preparation responsibilities at home,” Louise Dickerson, FDA’s project manager for the professional development program in Food Science, said. “This program will better educate them about the importance of handling food safely and why precautions must be taken. From FDA’s perspective, our professional development program for teachers is an effective way to support our goal of reducing the incidence of foodborne illness in this country.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in six Americans get sick from food poisoning each year.
During the training, teacher participants learned firsthand about the development and spread of foodborne illnesses; the vulnerability of at-risk populations; and the science behind safe food handling, storage and preparation. These teachers also learned how to better use the Nutrition Facts label to assess the nutritional value of foods. In addition, the teachers talked with scientists from FDA and conducted laboratory experiments at the University of Maryland at College Park to further increase their understanding of food science.
“Though the teachers have completed the training, the professional development experience has not ended,” Al Byers, associate executive director of strategic development and research at NSTA, said. “They will implement the curriculum in their schools, conduct workshops for their teacher colleagues, and receive continuing online support beyond the onsite experience. This program models sustained teacher support espoused in the latest standards in science professional learning whereby teachers may collaborate locally with other colleagues as part of an ongoing professional learning community.”
The food science program is centered on a standards-based curriculum developed by FDA in partnership with NSTA. The Science and Our Food Supply curriculum is available at no charge to all middle-level and high school teachers; it explores the science behind the production, transportation, storage, and preparation of our nation’s food supply, and contains a video, hands-on experiments and activities, and evaluation tools. Other parts of the curriculum explore little-known facts about food science that affect millions of people every day, such as how a traceback investigation is used to stop the additional sale and distribution of contaminated food, the likelihood of certain foods to cause foodborne illness more than others, and reasons why salt serves as a good preservative.