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601 Tully, grants, central new york, community foundation, nature matching system

Students Learn Nutrition through Art

What is the connection between food, color, and nutritional value? If you’re unsure, the third-graders at Seymour Dual Language Academy can explain it to you. The students spent most of this last fall explaining foods and their nutritional values by creating superheroes with powers based on phytonutrients, the chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants.

“Every day we’d come in and they would say ‘Blue is brain food! Green is for immune system,’” said 601 Tully Director and Syracuse University Associate Professor Marion Wilson. “The fact that we’d give them a strawberry and they would say that it was good for your blood shows they completely got it.”

Three classes of third-grade students at Seymour collaborated on the Nature Matching System, an instructional curriculum designed to educate children about eating their fruits and vegetables. The project allowed the students to create fruit smoothies and culminated in painting a three-panel mural currently on display in their school cafeteria.

Seymour Dual Language Academy is located within the Near Westside where limited access to farmers markets, wholesale markets and affordable fresh foods can yield poor purchase options and dangerous diets for children and families. At Seymour, 91 percent of students are eligible for free lunch and nearly half of their families rely on assistance to purchase food. 601 Tully Art and Research Center saw an opportunity to partner with the school and nearby Nojaim Bros Supermarket to offer an engaging way to help children make healthy food choices.

“We wanted to offer a multi-dimensional way for the students to learn and retain knowledge about nutrition and healthy lifestyles,” said Melissa Gardener, coordinator of public programs at 601 Tully.

A grant from the Community Foundation allowed 601 Tully to partner with artist Tattfoo Tan to teach and develop this adaptable curriculum with 10 architecture students from Syracuse University’s New Directions in Social Sculpture: Art, Food and Community class. The program taught the Nature Matching System to the university students and they collaborated with the artist to design a curriculum for the specific food desert needs of the Near Westside.

“Architecture isn’t just about buildings,” said architecture junior Jason Foggie. “I thought it would be cool to understand how a school works and how we can use that information to make and design something for the better.”

After witnessing the success of this program’s introduction, 601 Tully hopes to implement the curriculum at other schools.

“It’s a great way for [schools] to utilize a community resource and be a part of something that will remain with the kids for a long time,” said Melissa Gardener.