This week children of all ages are playing with their food. In keeping with our school-wide nutrition study, food is the hot topic around the Seed. Preschoolers are matching the colors of laminated pictures and plastic foods with large hoops or pieces of colored paper. The same pictures help them find their matching circle spots. Many classrooms have large MyPlate (http://www.choosemyplate.gov) diagrams on their walls or floors, also to be used for sorting and matching. Sensory bins are full of food-related items for playful exploration. Raw peeled beets, cranberry sauce, beans and dry noodles are just a few of the items in which small hands are immersed. When a teacher brings in pulp from her juicer (containing apples, carrots, lemon and ginger), students have to guess the ingredients. When ginger remains the mystery ingredient, it leads into the next day’s lesson.
Cooking projects also provide sensory input as four-year-olds participate in the important work of peeling carrots with authentic peelers. Toddlers squirt food coloring on tortillas, examine oatmeal, and tear kale leaves with their tiny hands. Olive oil is measured and poured into a bowl for sautéing onions. Kid chefs concoct quesadillas. Play dough “cookies,” and all the equipment that goes into making them, inspire intense conversation. Sliced bananas are prepped for both dehydrating and freezing. By the end of the week, hallways will be filled with the scent of basil and simmering carrot soup.
Books are an added ingredient, with titles such as Compost Stew, The Honeybee and the Robber, and Eating the Alphabet. I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly has springboarded PreK students into authorship of their own food variation of the story. K-1 artists are busily at work on their own version of Today Is Monday, based on the traditional children’s rhyme.
While younger children are tasting and touching their way through food adventures, older Seeds talk about bees and flowers, discuss compost, and cut out food pictures for their individual MyPlate collages. Third and fourth graders, equipped with iPads, work in teams to photograph lunches of students in other classes. Photos will be used to gather data about the contents of each lunch, which will be graphed, compared, and contrasted with a partner’s data, then discussed with the whole class.
As all this is going on, the usual sand concoctions will be dished up daily in the outdoor kitchen of our playground. Additionally, we are making a giant salad for a wall display, with each class contributing an “ingredient.” With articles like this (https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/09/01/the-decline-of-play-in-preschoolers-and-the-rise-in-sensory-issues/) floating around the internet, it’s gratifying to know that Seed kids are playing and learning their way through content that will profoundly influence their lives–content they’re unlikely to fully appreciate until many years down the road.