Monday, September 27, 2010

Way to Go, Ms. Clark!

Camas High School teacher Melanie Clark was one of 40 teachers nationwide chosen to participate in a food science workshop developed and implemented in a partnership between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the Graduate School at Washington DC. The one-week workshop for middle and high school science and family and consumer science teachers took place in Washington, DC, this summer.

The workshop is part of the FDA/NSTA Professional Development Program in Food Science, a sustained effort that also features curriculum implementation, a follow-up conference, and participant-led workshops. 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 new topic and curriculum with which to teach science. In addition, participants learn about nutrition and food allergies from FDA experts and receive nutrition material to help teach their students how to use the Nutrition Facts Label to make better food choices.

At the workshop, 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 to further increase their understanding of food science.

For example, the teachers investigated how a single bacteria cell can multiply to millions in just a few hours, and they observed how different temperatures (heating, room temperature, chilling, and freezing) affect the growth of bacteria. The teachers explored these concepts by putting their culinary skills to the test. After cooking hamburgers to various temperatures, the teachers tested them for bacteria and other organisms that cause disease.

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 any middle level or high school science teacher; 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 the passage of time affects the nutritional value of produce, the likelihood of certain foods to cause foodborne illness more than others, and reasons why salt serves as a good preservative.