What is Veggie U A+?
While we have been providing the Veggie U experience to special needs classrooms for many years, some of our schools requested a more specialized program designed around the abilities of the autistic community. Through a generous grant from The Stranahan Foundation, we were able to hire a curriculum writer with a special needs background to help us develop a new approach to Veggie U.
The original Veggie U curriculum was written to meet 4th grade science standards (and was later adapted to third grade standards). We modified the lessons by simplifying certain content and adding more visuals and hands-on activities. All of the A+ lessons can easily be tailored to different ability levels. While it is targeted to elementary cognitive abilities, the A+ program can be used in low functioning high school classes as well. We are also finding that the program is helpful for students with a variety of learning disabilities and diagnoses.
In the Veggie U A+ Classroom Garden Program
The A+ classroom garden program comes with a grow light, 2 root viewers, grow trays, soils, and seeds along with the Lesson Guide and instructional videos, and directions to download the My Farm My Table® iPad App. Participants also receive live worms for building a worm farm and funds to purchase vegetables for a tasting activity. Eight types of seeds are planted and may be harvested at the end of the program for a Harvest Party.
Customizing the Veggie U A+ Program
Veggie U A+ features a curriculum divided into 5 Field Guides (units) covering farms and farmers, soil and worms, the life cycle of plants, healthy food choices, and creating a Harvest Party. Each Field Guide starts with an illustrated Chapter Book, using the familiar SymbolStix® library, and contains a variety of activities. These include science experiments, songs, vocabulary, games, and more. Each unit can be covered in 1-2 weeks.
The Lesson Guide also comes with a variety of reproducible activity sheets and a Communication Board to support each guide, all using SymbolStix® characters to illustrate the concepts. The Chapter Books and Communication Boards are also available on the Veggie U My Farm My Table® iPad App, which features touch-and-speak capability.
Each Field Guide and the lessons and activities that accompany it are carefully designed to allow for multiple pathways to learn the material and opportunities for all students to get involved in the learning process, no matter their abilities.
Veggie U A+ is truly an interdisciplinary program. Along with plant science, math and reading, both verbal and non-verbal language skills are developed. There are many opportunities for social skills practice like taking turns, working in groups and attending a party. Social stories are included in some of the chapter books, as well as life skills such as making healthy food choices and setting the table.
Each lesson starts with a listing of the objectives of the lesson and the National Standards it meets. For Ohio teachers, each lesson is also labeled with the Ohio Extended Standards it covers.
A materials list of everything needed for the lesson is followed by instructions and suggestions for the completion of the activity. For some lessons, a simpler and a more complicated activity are provided to help teachers customize the activities for every student's learning level.
Establishing healthy eating habits
It is well known that children on the autism spectrum sometimes have issues involving foods and eating. Some have sensory issues that make introducing new foods difficult. Some like sameness and routine. Others have no desire to change what they eat. We are very sensitive to all these issues and Veggie U A+ provides fun, non-threatening activities to try to overcome these problems:
- The vegetable tasting activity offers the opportunity to try something new out of the context of a meal.
- Field Guide 4 explores healthy eating by explaining the MyPlate model and having the students practice making good food choices.
- Growing their own vegetables will oftentimes prompt a child to eat something fresh from the "farm."
- Helping to prepare a recipe in Field Guide 5 will provide a chance to taste and like something new.
By learning about farms and farmers, how worms help plants, how plants grow, and how vegetables are important to our diets, children will be more open to the possibility of touching, smelling, and even tasting new vegetables.
The mission of Veggie U has always been to promote the well-being of children and to encourage a healthy life style. We are honored to be able to help all children enjoy the benefits of learning healthy eating habits.
Veggie U works hard to provide Classroom Gardens at no cost to schools. When we are able to do this, it is through the generosity of our donors and grantors. Sometimes our funding is restricted by donors to specific geographic areas or populations. If funding isn't available for a particular school, we work with the school to identify local sources of funds. A new Primary Classroom Garden and a new A+ garden are each $450 per classroom. The perishable contents of the gardens can be replenished for $225 in subsequent years. Please Contact Us to find out if funding is available for your school.