Monday, February 17, 2014

Veggie Surprise

My district has a program called "Harvest of the Month". It's designed to introduce students to fruits and vegetables they've never tasted before. The monthly delivery comes with a page with the fruit/veggie's "stats" and a recipe. It also comes with my favorite part--where the food comes from with a short bio of the farm.

I always start my lesson with having the kids sit on the carpet in front of the Promethean Board I load up Google Earth and start at our school's address. Then I take us on a "virtual field trip" to the farm. I read them the information about the farm. Finally, I show them a picture of the food from the "stats" page. We smell the food, we feel it with our hands, we draw it (sometimes on the iPad), then taste it. I'm always amazed at how many kids are willing to try the food!

When my class first signed up for it last year, I liked it, but it didn't seem like too much of a stretch for my kids to taste mandarin oranges, snap peas, and broccoli. These were all things they had access to at the lunch line. I was expecting things like figs, cumquats, rhubarb, or starfruit.

But this year. Oh wow. They've really stepped up their game. This month's harvest was kale. Delicious, healthy, and oh so intimidating kale. Most of the kids had neither heard of kale, nor tasted it. And to be honest, until a year ago, I too was in the same category.

Our class was given three bunches of kale. I can remember thinking, "Yeah, right. Who in their right mind is going to need three bunches of kale?!" When I buy kale, I'm lucky if I can remember to cook the ONE bunch I buy before it goes bad. And that's my point. I cook it. I don't just sit down to a handful of raw kale and think, "Yeah, this is a good idea." Let alone, get 26 first and second graders to try it!

The district must've been thinking the same thing because they packed the bag full of kale, gloves, a small plastic bowl, plastic forks (not sporks), serving boats, a recipe for making a kale salad, and at the bottom was my saving grace--honey dijon dressing. I complained to my teammates how ridiculous I thought this month's harvest was. "They expect me to make a salad?! Did you see how tiny that bowl was?! How can I serve this? I have to prep this?! They've GOT to be kidding!"

Luckily, one teammate had already delved into the depths of the green veg and survived. She gave me hope. "I served a small chunk in the boat and then poured a little bit of dressing in the side so that if they wanted to dip it in the dressing, they could."

Pure genius.

I took this information back to my room and began happily setting up an array of boats with a chunk of kale and poured in a dollop of dressing. When the kids began getting their kale, there was a buzz around the room I hadn't heard since we began Harvest of the Month.

Many of the kids hadn't tried kale and were excited about it! This is EXACTLY what I was expecting with this program. Some kids liked it with the dressing, others didn't (which also surprised me). Some said, "May I have more please?" Others said, "May I have more 'dip' please?" 

When I surveyed them, only three kids had ever seen kale or eaten it before. When I asked about whether or not they liked it, about 17 of my 26 students liked it. One girl was proudly announcing at the end, "I had fourths!"

I told them that they should go home and tell their families about kale because I bet many of their parents had never tried it either.

Sure enough, I got a message from a mom that night saying her daughter "was raving about it at dinner. She even liked your dressing too!"

Proud moment as a teacher. Our job is to make learning and experiences that last beyond the walls of our classroom. I am happy that Harvest of the Month has helped me to do just that.