Determining the feasibility and acceptability of a garden-based nutrition curriculum for preschoolers

Tamara Michelle Lewis, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Obesity rates around the nation have risen to epidemic proportions. Rates of childhood obesity are at very high levels with 24.4% of preschool-aged children in the U.S. currently considered as overweight or obese. The percentage of childhood obesity is much higher in the southern part of the United States as compared to the rest of the nation. Minority populations, especially African American and Hispanic, are affected more than other ethnic groups. Obesity prevention programs are needed targeting young children <6 years of age from minority populations.>Currently, there are few obesity prevention programs that have been implemented and evaluated in children <6 years of age. Gardening programs have been successful in improving the health status of elementary school children by increasing fruit and vegetable intake and increasing preferences for healthier food choices.>However, there is no evidence of the feasibility and acceptability of a garden-based obesity prevention program among preschoolers. This pretest study, a classroom-based gardening curriculum program with 16 lesson plans and coordinating activities for preschool age children (3-5 years old) enrolled in Head Start, provides the opportunity to address this need. The study included 103 preschoolers from two centers and 9 teachers or teachers' aides. Qualitative data on feasibility and acceptability was collected from process evaluation forms of individual lesson plans and focus groups with teachers. Teacher questionnaires assessed individual teacher characteristics and provided feedback regarding the curriculum. Quantitative measures of teachers' self-efficacy, attitudes, and knowledge pertaining to nutrition were analyzed from pre and post-test surveys. Results revealed this preschool garden-based nutrition curriculum was both feasible and acceptable. The program improved teacher's self-efficacy, knowledge, and attitudes about nutrition, with teacher's confidence in ability to teach a gardening curriculum increasing from a mean score of 2.14 to 3.00 from pre to post test (P value = 0.0046). These results indicate implementing garden-based nutrition lessons within preschools is achievable. Employing garden-based nutrition lessons in the classroom is the first step in teaching children about nutrition and gardening concepts. Constructing gardening beds for more hands-on learning is the next proposed step in the larger parent study of this program.

Subject Area

Early childhood education|Nutrition|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Lewis, Tamara Michelle, "Determining the feasibility and acceptability of a garden-based nutrition curriculum for preschoolers" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1470103.