The Hands On: Real-World Lessons for Middle School Classrooms program was developed by Dr. Jennifer Richards, a former middle school teacher, and the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Tennessee. Participation in Hands On is free toschools thanks to a grant from the USDA and a donation from The Grocery Manufacturers Association.

The Hands On curriculum is based on effective educational theories that allow this program to serve as a strong model of best practices for interdisciplinary education at the middle school level. Each lesson is designed to follow Robert Gagne’s theory of instruction,  and to bring high levels of student engagement with ample opportunities to practice higher order thinking and creative problem solving. Current research shows that the retention rate for the Hands On content six weeks after implementation is 86 percent.

The professional development segment of the Hands On program also uses similar best practices to help equip teachers with research based instructional strategies.