Foraging, Diverse Local Food Consumption, and School Connectedness: How Foraging Can Improve Achievement


Michaela Ensweiler





Social Sciences and Comparative Education


PhD Candidate


Chris Jadallah


Grace Donahue as a Research Assistant


The 'Edible Nature' class has been developed in order to educate elementary students on local sources of food - how to consume locally, seasonally, and responsibly. It will reiterate that foods we find in the grocery store are not the only foods we can eat. It will promote sustainability by aiding students in their journey through foodways, food systems, food waste, and interdisciplinary ways of knowing and showing.

Over five courses, students will learn about local foods found in the hills of LA, how to source responsibly and reciprocably, nutrition science, go on a field hike, and hold a cooking competition.


This program is a five-week instensive course that will instruct students on foraging, nutrition, and cooking with the following weekly topics:

Week one: How to forage responsibly and where foraging occurs
Week two: Plant Identification
Week three: Nutrition Basics
Week four: Sage Hill Field Trip
Week five: Cooking Competition with UCLA Test Kitchen Chef, Julia Rhoton

Students will record their experiences and thoughts in a weekly journal as well as record the plants they identify, the nutrition information about said plants, where they find them and what they look and smell, then how they plan to use them in a recipe for the cooking competition.

The class will commence with lessons about foraging spaces in LA and on UCLA campus. We will also learn about foraging in different global spaces. The second week will bring us lessons on plant identification, especially plants in our immediate community to look for on our trip to Sage Hill. The third lesson will lend information on nutrition of these plants specifically and our microbiome. The fourth lesson will give us a chance to use the lessons we've had in a search for edible items on Sage Hill, (though we will not pick or eat these due to health concerns). The fourth lesson will be the culminating cooking competition with foreagable items collected from nearby farming vendors in a cooking competition with UCLA Test Kitchen Chef, Julia Rhoton guiding students through a recipe. Students will get to use their creativity with the foreagable items in customizing their creation.


This instensive and high-fidelity guided course will provide students with a basic knowledge of:
what foraging is how to forage safely, responsibly, and reciprocably;
where and how foraging is done in other global spaces;
to record and see first-hand the local plants that are edible on our campus;
to address issues related to health, nutrition, physical activity, and nutrition and how this contributes to overall wellness;
to learn about cooking and preparing food safely and appropriately;
to be in safe community with those around us (human and more-than-human systems).

We would also like to ask if this class increases students' fruit and vegetable consumption - specifically locally grown and available fruits and vegetables as well as if these activities increase school and community connectedness.


Students will learn about sustainably sourcing food in a reciprocal way with nature and why that has many benefits to us, the planet, and our communal health.


We hope to publish this study in special issues of Environmental Justice journals, scientific journals, and allow UCLA spaces like Sage Hill and the Test Kitchen to further their educational missions.




Upper elementary, fifth and sixth grade students


Generative thematic interviewing and class discussion to facilitate knowledge surrounding local food systems and foraging, then assessing attitudes towards diet and nutrition.

Photovoice methods to assess dietary changes and future thoughts and changes students would like to see.

Journaling to record student experiences, perspectives, and thoughts, as well as if their knowledge of local and global consumption with knowledge of different foodways increases.

Classroom and field trip observation to watch how students interact with the knowledge gleaned from the course.

Survey methods to note dietary knowledge, changes, and school/community connectedness scores.

This research will require a five-week curricula for this course that will be a high-fidelity program to ensure students have the knowledge to be able to make changes to their diet if necessary.

The class will also utilize written testing if computers are not available for quizing knowledge of plant identification.


Warning: Array to string conversion in /opt/data/www/connect/wp-content/themes/ucla-connect-test/templates/content-single-project.php on line 29


Computers, cameras, journals


Utilizing quizes online to see a change in identification knowledge
Cameras to capture student diet (taking pictures of meals)
Journals to capture student attitudes and experiences throughout the courses


The research will gage the interest, experience, and knowledge of students' local food consumption as well as communal connectedness and if that changes throughout the development of this high-fidelity five-week course. Through the methods listed, we are ensured to capture many different angles to see if this experience changes these factors.


If a picture will be shared with a student a separate form of consent will be signed.


We will not be using foods directly from our foraging trips, instead we will purchase foods from local vendors for tasting.

We will also ensure we know any food allergies before proceeding in cooking.

For the field trip, we will be taking a safe road to Sage Hill and have a guide through our field trip there. Chef Julia Rhoton will lead us through our recipe in our cooking competition to ensure students are preparing food safely.


We will debrief with school faculty to relay our findings.


Any confidential data, names of students, will be changed to protect privacy. Pictures of the journal pages, videos, or pictures of the class will be stored in a password protected computer and not disseminated unless a separate form of consent is signed.



Rebeccah Heneise - prior teacher contact who sponsored the course
Jennifer Williams - current teacher contact for course


Jennifer Williams will consent to the project in their classroom.


Sandra Smith will be the research contact for this course.


Science for plant and nutrition information
Social Studies for school connectedness and global reach of foraging and nutrition/local plant consumption
Math in our cooking competition
English with texts on foraging



A two- to three- hour timeblock for a field trip to Sage Hill
Space for a cooking competition (no heat or knives will be required)









Warning: Array to string conversion in /opt/data/www/connect/wp-content/themes/ucla-connect-test/templates/content-single-project.php on line 29