Integrated Curriculum with Social Studies, Math, Writing, and Science

The Happy Eating Place is an entrepreneurial business venture started in the spring of 2013 by 4th and 5th grade students at Mills College Children’s School. After a unit on nutrition, the students got excited about cooking and selling healthy snacks on campus. Their teacher saw the opportunity for a service learning project with broader goals including social justice issues within our society. She brought in a financial planner to help the students understand the aspects of running a business, which they named “The Happy Eating Place,” and each student chose a job—chef, cashier, accounting, marketing, dish washing, and more. The students decided they wanted the proceeds from their bake sales to help end hunger in America, and across the last two years, they have donated nearly $1000 to the Alameda County Community Food Bank. The HEP mission is to serve healthy snacks and educate others about nutrition, sustainable farming, and hunger in America.

How are social studies and social justice part of the Happy Eating Place?

  • Through a field trip to a local farm, students learn about how food is raised in America and the difference between industrial and sustainable farming, how organic produce is grown and how animals are raised humanely.
  • Students research the history and current conditions that lead to “food insecurity” and learn how, over time, hunger and poor nutrition leads to chronic illness, poor concentration, and difficulties in school performance that will impact a child for years to come.
  • Students volunteer at the Alameda County Community Food Bank, learning more about whom they serve and how many people in our county alone need food assistance; they learn to become advocates!

How is math part of the Happy Eating Place?

  • First, students learn about balancing a budget, understanding expenses, revenue, and net profit.
  • Students learn to understand the relationship between sale price and consumer tolerance. Using graphs and simulations, they become better at knowing what the appropriate price should be for given items.
  • Leading up to each sale, students are asked to calculate the projected revenues, based on costs and profit margin.
  • Prior to cooking, students must take a recipe and multiply it to know how much of each ingredient will be needed.
  • Cashiers collect money, give receipts, and later count the revenue and determine net profit.
  • At the end of the year, the students shop on the food bank website and get to see how far their dollars will stretch to feed the hungry, thanks to the food bank’s bulk-buying practices.

How is writing part of the Happy Eating Place?

  • Students collaborated on the mission statement and the class writes reflections about their learning after every sale, thinking about how to improve their business from all standpoints—quality, efficiency, customer service, etc.
  • The marketing team goes out to talk to students in other classrooms before each sale about the next item that will be available for purchase, as well as to talk about their mission and what they are learning about nutrition and hunger. This is great experience in public speaking, and also helps prepare students to write about what they have learned.
  • The marketing committee updates their own blog with information about the next sale and what they are learning in class.
  • The students write letters to the community to inform them of their cause, hoping to educate others as well as themselves!

How is science part of the Happy Eating Place?

  • Students learn about nutrition and living systems. What do all living organisms need? What are the systems in our bodies that give cells the nutrients they need and how is gas exchanged. How is nutrition connected to healthy bodies?
  • Students learn about vascular plants and how these organisms get the nutrients they need. What systems do plants have and how are they like our systems?
  • The class maintains a garden, where students grow healthy vegetables organically. They learn about soil and what plants need to grow. After their harvest, they cook and share a meal together!

Want to learn more? The Happy Eating Place was featured in this piece on on 7/23/14.