Setting up and running a school garden - Teaching ToolKit

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In preparation for preparing food:

  1. Keeping food
  2. Food hygiene

Preparing food:

  1. Preparing food
  2. Cooking in the garden
  3. Conserving and preserving


Food hygiene practices are based on an understanding of the dangers of "invisible dirt" (i.e. bacteria). This set of lessons focuses on ways of eating raw food and ways of conserving food value, and on cooking and eating as social activities and the culmination of gardening work.


This lesson introduces the general principles of food decay and food conservation. It can be done as a preliminary to Lesson G5 Conserving and preserving, or as a pair with Lesson F9 Harvesting. The experiment needs to be followed up over the course of a week.



- share knowledge of how to keep foods fresh
- recognize the causes of food decay and observe the process of decay.


- a few fresh garden foods (e.g. carrot, celery, salad, fruit), gathered by learners if possible
- small pieces of paper about 10 cm x 20 cm
- running water to wash foods


- Learners ask their families How do we keep food fresh? What happens to fresh foods if we leave them? Tell them to come to class with some true stories about particular foods.
- Ask them to come with hands washed (with soap and running water).
- Prepare your own story about some food which went bad. Include members of your family in the story, and some dialogue.


1. Lead-in Check that learners have washed hands. Wash foods in front of learners. Cut each food in two and put half aside. Divide the rest into small pieces, giving everyone a piece to eat. Say this is the best way to eat foods: freshly gathered, washed in clean water, eaten the same day. Savour the food and urge learners to do so.

2. Keeping food fresh What if we want to eat the rest the next day? How do we keep food fresh? Learners report on what families do. Older learners check the Guide to match ideas.

3. Reasons What happens if we leave fresh food? Tell your own story about a piece of food which went bad. Collect learners own stories and ask follow-up questions (e.g. So why did it go bad? What did your mother say?).

4. Rot Race The leftover pieces of food will take part in a "Rot Race" to see which ones keep best. Groups adopt pieces of food and decide where to leave each one (e.g. outside in the shade, in a tree, on a shelf). For each piece they take a small piece of paper. On one half they write the name of the food and a prediction about what will happen e.g. dried up, eaten, mouldy. On the other half they put the food and a small stone to hold down the paper.

Learners monitor their foods every day for a week, observing closely and reporting what happens. At the end of the week they describe them. This is good for vocabulary extension: possible new words are dehydrated, dried up, withered, wrinkled, limp, shrunk, wilted, mouldy, rotten, smelly, liquefied, soft and squashy; inedible, uneatable.


1. Tell the family Learners tell families what happened to their foods.

2. Horror stories Older learners write up their own horror stories of food which went bad, saying why, giving a full description (smell, touch, sight), and describing peoples reactions.


Language Descriptive vocabulary

Biology Decay


They eat our food.
They carry our food away.
They make it dirty.


They take out the water.
They dry up the food.


They make food mouldy.
They make food rot.
They like it warm, wet and light.


Keep food in containers.
Keep animals away.

Keep food cool.
Keep it out of the sun.

Dont keep damaged food.
Keep food cool and dry.
Keep it in the dark.



This first lesson on food preparation focuses on food hygiene. It is best given in a kitchen, using real utensils. Learners have to learn two things. One is to understand why hygiene is necessary; the other is to practise hygiene routines. Both take some time to learn: this lesson only introduces them.
N.B. If learners have not yet learnt about bacteria, talk about dangerous dirt, dirt you cant see or invisible dirt.



- recognize the danger of "invisible dirt" (bacteria and moulds) and how to avoid it
- become familiar with hygiene routines in preparing food.


- two glasses of water, one clear, one muddy
- some simple pieces of food to prepare and the necessary equipment (it is simplest if the food can be eaten raw)
If it is not possible to use a real kitchen, bring (or ask learners to bring) knives and spoons, soap, a basin and cloths for cleaning and covering food.


Learners ask at home what needs to be clean when preparing food, and why.


1. Lead-in Show the class a glass of muddy water and ask if it is clean or dirty. Show the clear water and ask the same question. Ask learners to think well. Help them to see that we know the muddy water is dirty, but we dont know that the clear water is clean. It could contain dangerous bacteria (invisible dirt) which can make us sick. Mime drinking the dirty water (Is this dangerous?) and let learners stop you. Do the same with the clear water.

2. Where are they? Bacteria like water. Emphasize that they also need food. They love to be wet and warm. Cooked food, damp food, sunlight, warm water and warm bodies are all good places for them. Look around the kitchen (or at Guide A) and ask learners to guess where invisible bacteria might be lurking.

3. Routines How do we beat bacteria and defeat the dirt? The slogan is "clean, cold, covered". Tell the class we will prepare some simple food they know well (e.g. grated carrot) so they can learn some of the Ten Steps to Safe Food (see Guide B). If you are not in a kitchen, indicate a pretend tap, sink, work surface and cooker. Demonstrate the routine below. Pause before each step to ask learners what comes next.


a) Check there is clean water and cleaning equipment (soap, scrubber, jug).

b) Check there are no insects around.

c) Wash hands with soap and running water, including nails.

d) Set up all the equipment you need and check that surfaces, utensils, containers are clean.

e) Wash foods in clean water.

f) Prepare foods (rubbish from plant foods goes to the compost).

g) Cover cooked food and put in a cool place.

h) Clear up and wash up.

4. Guide Pupils look at Guide B, find the steps that have been demonstrated and any new ones. They discuss why each one is important.

5. Practice Everyone washes hands. Groups prepare to demonstrate preparing another food in the same way.


1. Home demonstration Learners ask to prepare a food at home and demonstrate to their families the ten steps to food safety.

2. Bacteria hunt Learners go on a bacteria hunt round the school grounds, looking for rubbish, old food, bad smells etc. Give a point for each likely "black spot".


Science Bacteria


There are bacteria ...

Can you find them in this kitchen?



Use clean water and cleaning equipment.

Keep away flies and insects.

Clean hands thoroughly (including nails) before preparing food use soap and clean running water.

Separate raw and cooked food.

Check that everything is clean - work surfaces and utensils (pots, pans, knives etc.).

Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.

Wash fresh food in clean water.

Cover or wrap cooked leftover food.

Do not leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours; reheat leftover food.

Clean everything after preparing food.



This lesson is about getting full food value from your homegrown foods. It stresses raw foods, light cooking and conserving cooking water. Do it (in a kitchen if possible) when planning how to prepare garden foods. Younger learners do only the first three stages.



- describe local methods of cooking and food preparation
- appreciate the value of raw foods
- understand how to cook to conserve food value (older learners)
- try out new cooking methods (older learners).


For all: pieces of cooked food and (edible) raw food

For older learners:

- a few raw vegetables for cooking
- a cooking fire, or something to represent one (e.g. a cardboard box with holes in sides and top)
- a cooking pot with lid
- a frying pan or wok
- some small rocks for steaming
- water
- a grid for grilling food


Learners find out how some fruits and vegetables are cooked, which ones are eaten raw and how they are prepared. N.B. If younger learners do not understand vitamins, use the word food.


1. Lead-in Check that learners have washed hands (with soap and running water). Show some foods and ask which are raw and which are cooked. Learners sample the foods and discuss the difference in taste between raw and cooked foods (e.g. raw foods are crunchier).

2. Raw foods Learners report on foods which are often eaten raw and how they are prepared and eaten (grated, juiced etc.). Older learners extend Guide A with local examples. Ask which raw vegetables they like, and show warm approval of all preferences. Explain that raw foods are usually very good for us. Cooked vegetables too should be crunchy, not overcooked.

3. Local cooking methods Ask learners what they can cook (show approval of experienced cooks). Ask one or two class "experts" to describe how they themselves prepare particular vegetables (e.g. onions, pumpkin). Recall the ten steps to safe food from G2 Food hygiene.

4. Getting full food value (for older learners) Discuss how much water is best for cooking vegetables. Explain that we must keep the food in the vegetables. How do we do this?

a) Demonstrate boiling. Put vegetables in water in a pot and boil them (in reality or in mime). What happens to the food/vitamins in the vegetables? (Some come out in the water.) Demonstrate throwing the water away. What happens? (We lose the food/vitamins in the water.) How can we save the food/vitamins?
(Use less water; make a sauce with the water.)

b) Demonstrate or mime steaming (as in Guide B). Is this better than boiling? (Yes, because the food/vitamins stay in the vegetables.)

c) Demonstrate any one-pot local dish (e.g. rice with vegetables). Is this a good way to cook? (Yes, because nothing escapes we eat all the food.)

d) Demonstrate grilling vegetables on a grid. Is this good? (Yes, because nothing escapes.)

e) Finally, demonstrate stir-frying. Is this a good way to cook? (Yes, because its light cooking, and many of the vitamins stay in the food.)

Get learners to draw conclusions about the effects of different cooking methods.


1. Carrot colour If time permits, do the "Cooking Carrots" experiment shown in Guide C.

2. Home trials Learners try out steaming, grilling or stir frying at home and report back.

3. Our raw food Learners make an illustrated table of raw local foods as in Guide A.


Nutrition/Home Economics Nutrients in foods


For example, pawpaws,
avocadoes, grapefruit

For example,salad, celery,
tomatoes, nuts, young peas

For example, bananas, oranges,
grapefruit, passion fruit


For example, sweet peppers,
cucumber, melon, celery

For example, grapefruit,
passion fruit, tomato, carrot

For example, carrot, apple, cabbage




Dont kill nutrients with overcooking.

Dont throw nutrients out with the water.




More nutrients
stay in the food.


Use very little water.
Keep the water
for soups.


Make dishes
which include
the cooking water.


Cut food very small
and cook very quickly
in a small amount
of hot fat.


Cook thin slices over
the fire or in the oven.


PURPOSE: to determine what cooking method preserves the most vitamins

MATERIALS: carrots, stove, steamer, two pots, clear glasses or glass bottles


Slice up the carrots.
Divide them into three heaps.

Boil one third of the carrots.
Steam one third of them.
Keep one third raw.

When they are cooked, pour the
water from the boiled carrots into
a clear glass or bottle, and the water from the steamed carrots into another.


        The orange colour of the water is the vitamins that have come out of the carrots.

        The more orange the water, the more vitamins have come out of the carrots.

Which water is darker?

Which cooking method has taken more vitamins out of the carrots?

Which carrots now contain more vitamins the boiled ones or the steamed ones?

What about the raw ones?

Which cooking method preserves more vitamins?

Adapted from Kiefer and Kemple (1998)

N.B. This experiment can also be done with spinach or squash.


Cooking in the garden is a social occasion which gives high focus to garden products and can demonstrate environmentally friendly cooking methods. This lesson promotes the haybox, which uses minimum fuel and is easy to make. Other homemade outdoor fuel-saving cookers are solar ovens and cob ovens.



- know the main local cooking fuels; older learners know and compare costs
- can use one fuel-saving cooking method; older learners can explain how it works.


- a cooker of some sort (small fire or stove)
- a pot with a lid
- water
- some food which needs long cooking
(e.g. rice, sweetcorn, beans) and which will produce an edible dish
- materials for a haybox (
see Guide B)


- Prepare a haybox with learners help.
- To prepare for the class, younger learners find out what kind of cooker is used at home and what fuel is used. Older learners also find out where their fuel comes from and what it costs - in money or in time (e.g. for gathering firewood).


1. Lead-in Learners describe their home cookers. Use Guide A for identification and comparison if necessary. Older learners discuss the costs of the various fuels (wood, gas, oil, electricity), write up the information and decide which fuels are very expensive.

2. Demonstration How can we use less fuel? Together, look at what happens when we cook food.

a) Light the cooker, put water and food in the pot and put it on the heat.

b) Learners gather round and hold their hands to the pot. Can we feel the heat? (Yes) So where is the heat going? (Out of the pot) We are losing heat and wasting fuel!
We are heating our hands instead of our food. How can we keep the heat in the pot? Gather learners ideas.

c) Present the haybox or "wonderbasket". It saves fuel because it cooks without a fire. Take the pot from the fire, put it in the haybox and close it. Learners hold their hands on the haybox. Can we feel the heat? (No) Where is the heat? (In the pot, cooking the food)

4. Insulation Older learners discuss what is happening. How does the haybox keep the heat in? (By wrapping the pot) This is called insulation. The food goes on cooking slowly, with no fire.

5. Opening the pot Fix a time to open the pot several hours later. Put up a big notice saying

THE WONDERBOX WILL BE OPENED AT ...(time). When the moment comes, build up suspense before opening up. Will the food be raw and cold? Will it be cooked, ready to eat, still hot? Learners open the pot and report on what they find. Then share out the food.


1. Home reports Learners tell their families about the haybox.

2. Poster and talks Older learners make a poster of cooking methods and fuel costs and give talks about cooking methods to other classes using the poster.

3. Demonstration Learners give a haybox de-monstration for families and school visitors.

4. Further projects Build a solar cooker or a cob oven for outside cooking in the school yard.


Science Heat insulation, fuel efficiency, radiant heat


Not very economical or efficient: a lot of heat is lost

More efficient but still uses a lot of fuel

Quite efficient, but expensive

Efficient but expensive


The haybox or "wonderbasket" is an insulated bag or box. You heat up the food in a pot, put the pot in the box and leave it to cook in its own heat. It saves a lot of cooking fuel and keeps the food hot for when you want to eat it. Hayboxes are good for anything that needs long cooking, e.g. soups, relishes, stews, rice, beans, vegetables and cereals.


a box

a basket

a bag or sack

a hole in the ground


Use things which create many little pockets of air, for example:

wood shavings



rice husks


Put all the ingredients in the pot.

Heat pot to boiling.

Put the pot in the haybox.

Cover with an insulated lid.

Leave for several hours: it cooks by itself.

A black pot is best, with two handles at the top.

You use less than half the fuel!

Lining the box with foil reflects the heat inwards.

The important thing is to keep the heat in.

If you start it in the morning it will be ready to eat, and still hot,by lunchtime.



Preserving food may be essential to maintaining a good diet through the year. Preserving processes can be practised in the school setting, repeated at home, and promoted by taking samples home, inviting visitors to try them, or selling the products in the community.



- understand the principles of food conservation (protection against pests, bacteria and fungi)
- can give examples of local food conservation practices
- participate in preserving foods, and can explain the process.


Samples of preserved/processed foods from several of these categories:

- dried foods (e.g. peas/beans, grains/seeds, dried fruit, dried fish, green leaves, tea, coffee)
- foods which keep well on their own (e.g. onions, sweet potatoes, pumpkin)
- foods preserved with sugar (e.g. jam, fruit leather)
- oil (e.g. palm oil, sunflower oil)
- pickled foods (preserved in salt or vinegar)
- bottled or canned foods (e.g. tomatoes, juice)
- flour (e.g. maize, wheat, cassava, banana)
- smoked foods (e.g. fish, meat)
- frozen food (with its packet)
- any other (e.g. cured foods like ham)


Learners prepare for the lesson by finding out

- what foods are stored at home
- how they are stored/preserved
- why they dont go bad.

Learners bring samples of stored food to the class, especially home-grown or home-preserved ones.


1. Lead-in Describe a recent meal. Ask learners which ingredients they think were fresh and which were stored. Ask What foods do we preserve? Collect samples and spread them around.

2. Conserving food Learners recall the two main risks for stored food: getting eaten and going bad. Ask the questions

- What eats our food? How do we stop them?
- How do foods go bad? Why? How do we stop it?

Give older learners the questions in a table, as below and allow groups 5 minutes to brainstorm. Groups feed back and write up answers.

Getting eaten

a) What eats our food? (e.g. flies, birds, weevils, insects, ants, rats and mice)

b) How do we stop them? (e.g. with containers, neem tree leaves, rat baffles, mouse traps)

Going bad

c) How do foods go bad? (e.g. black bananas, mouldy oranges, fuzzy tomatoes)

d) Why? (Bacteria/fungi cause decay - tiny invisible living things which love damp, light and warmth.)

e) How do we stop it? (Kill bacteria or stop them e.g. drying, boiling, cooking, keeping cool (see Guide A).

3. How do we preserve foods? Look again at the samples and collect information about methods of preserving or conserving, containers etc. For older learners, give each group a few samples, let them discuss how each food is conserved and why it works, then report back.


1. Posters Learners make a poster in four columns. Each draws or describes one item (e.g. one pest, one way to stop it, one mouldy food, one way of conserving food) on a card or paper and sticks it on the poster. Train learners to explain the poster to visitors or other classes.

2. Home preserves Groups research a local home preserving process, learn how to do it and report on it. Collect the reports into a booklet.

3. School project Do a small food preservation project in school with garden produce (see Guide B for ideas).


Science Bacteria



Use good containers

                                    Keep out the air

Always put a label on, with the date

Keep dry

Keep cool

Add preservatives

Boil and cook

Bacteria need water: a little toasted white rice keeps foods dry.

Most bacteria dont like the cold and dark.

Sugar and salt can stop food going bad.

Boiling kills bacteria, but it also destroys some vitamins.

Dry and cure

Freeze and can


Make flour

Dont dry in direct sunlight.

Freezing kills some bacteria and stops others.

Salt and vinegar kill bacteria.

Keep flour airtight and dry.


Harvest in the cool of the evening.

Choose ripe, undamaged items.

Cut out bad bits.

Sterilize equipment.


HANG UP strings of onions, garlic, chillies, herbs, bunches of cherry tomatoes, in a cool shady airy place.

CURE SWEET POTATOES, YAMS, PUMPKINS by leaving them in a warm shady airy place for a week after harvesting. The skin will thicken and they will keep better. Then store in a dark cool dry place.

DRY FRUIT AND VEGETABLES in an airy open-sided shed. Put slices of food on a rack/mat/tray well off the ground with its legs in water to prevent climbing insects. Turn every day until dry (vegetables) or leathery (fruit). Thin foods (e.g. green leaves) can be dried whole. Dry legumes and oilseeds on the plant. Store in a cool dry protected place.

SOLAR DRYING is faster and preserves nutrients better. A solar drier is basically a box or frame with a plastic cover and is not difficult to construct. Fruit/vegetable strips and slices take about three days, green leaves about two days. Store dried food in airtight containers and label.

FLOUR can be made from (for example) pumpkin, banana, sweet potato, breadfruit and cowpeas as well as from cereals. Use in cakes, biscuits, pancakes and complementary feeding. Dry the food, then pound, sieve and store in an airtight container. For banana flour, pick bananas when three-quarters ripe. Heat them, peel and slice them, then dry the slices. Pound into flour, then sieve, store and label.

FRUIT LEATHERS are made by cooking fruit, pulping it, then drying it. For pumpkin leather, wash, peel, cut up and cook the pumpkin, pure, strain, add honey and spices, spread on an oiled tray and dry in a solar drier. Cut the leather into squares, wrap in cellophane and label.

PICKLED CUCUMBER Wash 3 kilos of firm, fresh, medium-size cucumbers and put in a deep bowl. Mix salt and water enough to cover the cucumbers. Let stand for two days. Drain, rinse and slice. Put 10 cups of sugar, 10 cups of white vinegar and some pickling spice in a pot and bring slowly to the boil to dissolve the sugar. Add sliced cucumbers to the hot syrup for a few seconds, then pack into clean hot jars. Fill jars with hot vinegar-sugar solution, seal and label.

Cooks Com (2004)

1Pickling spice has a lot of different spices, e.g. cinnamon, mustard seed, bay leaves, allspice, dill, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, coriander, juniper,mace, cardamom, chilli. Use whatever you have.

KANJI PICKLED CARROT DRINK This is popular in India. Wash a kilo of carrots and grate them into a jar/bottle. Add 7 litres of clean water, 200g salt and some hot spices (e.g. chilli, mustard seed). Close tightly, leaving a tiny hole for gases to escape. Ferment for 7-10 days. Strain. Consume within 3-4 days.

Battcock and Azam-Ali (1998)

BOTTLED TOMATOES Use plum tomatoes, ripe but hard. Wash well and remove bad bits. Dip in boiling water for 30 seconds, cool in water, then peel. Fill jars with tomatoes. Add a small spoon of lemon juice/vinegar to each. Seal while hot. Cover jars with water in a deep pan, with straw to stop rattling. Boil for 30 minutes (small jars) or 50 minutes (big jars). Let cool and label.

FAO Rural Processing & Preserving (1985)

GUAVA JUICE Choose firm ripe guavas. Wash, cut off the ends and slice. Cover with water in a large pot. Boil until very soft (15-20 minutes). Pour into a bag of rough cloth and let the juice drip through. Drink it right away. To bottle it, sterilize bottles and lids, boil the juice again, pour into hot bottles, seal and label.

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