LiFE Curriculum Series

Linking Food & the Environment Curriculum Series

The Science Education and Nutrition Education programs at Teachers College Columbia University collaborated to develop LiFE, a research-based science and nutrition curriculum. The LiFE Curriculum Series addresses both a major science education goal to promote scientific literacy for all Americans and major national health goals for people to eat healthful diets and lead physically active lives. LiFE uses the study of food and food systems to address national science standards in the areas of science as inquiry; life sciences; and unifying concepts such as understanding systems as interacting parts and understanding the flow of energy and matter through systems.

teachers college, columbia university, nutrition, health, center for food and environment, education, curriculum


Evaluation of the LiFE curriculum series demonstrated that LiFE significantly improved:

  • children’s conceptual understandings in LiFE’s core content areas, inquiry skills, and attitudes towards nutrition, science and nature;
  • children’s eating habits and amount of physical activity;
  • teacher’s attitudes towards the teaching of science and nutrition; and
  • parents’ attitudes toward helping children learn science and make healthy food choices.

The curriculum goals are:

  • to increase scientific conceptual understandings in life science,
  • to improve attitudes toward science,
  • to improve attitudes toward personal health and nature, and
  • to promote behavior changes in relation to personal health and sustainable systems.

Driving Questions
Each module is framed around a driving question that directly connects the scientific and nutrition ideas to be explored with what children find to be important.

  • Growing Food (grades 4, 5, or 6): How does nature provide us with food?
  • Farm to Table & Beyond (grades 5 or 6): What is the system that gets food from farm to table, and how does this system affect the environment?
  • Choice, Choice & Change (grades 6, 7, or 8): How can we use scientific evidence to help us maintain energy balance?

Science Process
How students learn is as important as what they learn in the LiFE curriculum. The driving questions challenge students to explore, questions, investigate, analyze, synthesize, and act. LiFE’s five-phase learning cycle, QuESTA, guides students through this process.

This project was made possible by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA), from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NCRR or NIH.

CFE Education:
Linking Food and the Environment (LiFE) Curriculum Series classroom-based science and nutrition modules
EarthFriends Program direct education at Teachers College and at your site
informal educational materials that introduce students to food systems and personal health issues
Collaboratations with others who share our vision.