According to the 2015 Study on America’s Consumption of Fruits & Vegetables, vegetable consumption declined 7% over the past five years. However, more Americans are eating slightly more fresh veggies than ten years ago, as compared to frozen or canned. What accounts for preference? As part of a Whole Kids Foundation Innovation Grant, three kindergarten teachers conducted a taste test comparing fresh, frozen, and canned peas.
Setting the Stage
Before observing peas, students discussed in pairs what they had for dinner the previous night. This conversation starter allowed the teacher to develop the concept of “vegetable” and gauge students’ awareness of this term. Next, students listened to the book Night of the Veggie Monster, an engaging tale about the character’s distaste for…you guessed it. Peas!! Students reportedly loved the book, in which a young child’s “eyes begin to water” and “toes twist and curl up” at the tiniest taste of one pea. The author uses interesting text features and mixed-media illustrations, which exaggerate the humor.
Meeting the Standards: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4
Observing Like Scientists
Embedded into a unit about how scientists use their five senses, this book provided a perfect introduction to some of the sensory, social, and dispositional aspects of food literacy. After reading, students observed three types of peas using their five senses, but they were only allowed to taste after sharing their observations about the other four senses first. Before tasting, students were reminded to use descriptive language, rather than a statement of preference. They were banned from saying, “Ewww.”
One teacher reported that most students had only ever tried fresh peas before. Students tried the three types of peas one at a time and shared their observations with a partner before charting their responses. Canned peas were a favorite for the taste, but not for the color. Frozen peas were a favorite because they were cold and crunchy, but fresh peas were a favorite because they were big and crunchy. Nonetheless, students ate all the peas on the plates, showing that students are willing to try (and like) different foods if they are presented in an engaging and age-appropriate manner. In the end, a class of 24 students ate two whole bags of frozen peas, an entire can and two bags of fresh peas.
The following day they discussed how they feel when we eat vegetables, students wrote an opinion piece. The lesson ended with an observation of pea flowers. Students voted on which we would paint and we created a Mother’s Day card with their painted pictures.
Peas may not be on the list of “Top Ten” favorite vegetables for most Americans, but most kindergarteners agree they’re pretty yummy. Stay tuned for more lessons like this one as part of Common Core Cooking and Gardening for the Next Generation.