Using food science to enhance STEM education



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Student success in today’s modern, technological world depends on a thorough understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The US has made efforts to promote STEM education in recent years which has raised the international ranking of the United States students in STEM disciplines; however, more work is needed to make the US a leader in STEM education. Many methods have been used to help increase student interest and success in STEM disciplines. An integrated curriculum is one such method to heighten STEM education by using multiple subjects to support the content being taught.
Food Science can be used as a tool in integrated curricula to enhance STEM education. The universality, cultural importance, and scientific diversity of food make it a perfect fit to incorporate content from all STEM disciplines. Furthermore, exposing students to the complexity of the food chain, food safety, and food science at a young age sets them up to be informed and educated consumers throughout their lives.
The curriculum prototype developed for this report demonstrates the continuing promise of food science to enhance STEM education. This food-centric, project-based integrated curriculum encompasses all the standards required in fifth-grade science and math in the state of Tennessee with the added benefits of incorporating knowledge of food safety and the realities of the food chain. This curriculum is based on the essential question of how to use a community garden to bring nutrition to the people of Southern Asia. Through dissecting this problem, students learn about geographic diversity, plant growing conditions, food harvesting and preservation techniques, and cost implications to complex problems. Furthermore, the content required in 5th grade math and science in Tennessee is incorporated so that students learn the required content while solving a complex, real-world issue. The use of food science in integrated curricula provides students with hands-on experience in STEM subjects in a way that encourages independent learning, student engagement in the content, and real-world learning experiences.
For students to have success in the modern world, they need a clear understanding of how the material presented in STEM courses relates to their lives. Food science can be used to enhance STEM education in a way that engages students and highlights important learning principles in science, technology, engineering, and math. Food science can elevate STEM education, increase student interest in STEM, and cultivate an engaged and knowledgeable public.



STEM education, Food science, Integrated curriculum, Project-based learning

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Master of Science


Food Science Institute

Major Professor

Justin J. Kastner