The Reggio Emilia philosophy includes having nature as the third teacher, so this week we introduced the eggplant in the lunchroom and classroom! Eggplant is something new on our current menu. Since this is a new food for most of us, we are introducing it not only in the lunchroom, but in the classrooms as well. We want the children to experience it in many ways, so that when they see it in the lunchroom, they will be more open to trying it.
While playing with your food is usually not encouraged in a traditional classroom, that’s exactly what we supported the children in doing! The children took advantage of the chance and explored the eggplant using their five senses. They were able to label the smells, colors, texture, taste, and sounds the eggplant made as they ripped it open. Once the fruit was exposed, they became aware of the seeds inside the eggplant and began collecting them. With all the seeds were out, the children counted them out and worked with the teacher to plant them in the garden!
Combining individual and group work enhances cooperative learning. The children individually found descriptive words to label the fruit then shared the ideas. Following this, they worked together to gather the seeds inside the plant and count them. These activities developed their fine motor skills and math skills while playing with this fun “foreign” fruit. Sharing these responsibilities helped the class reach the goal of comprehension of the eggplant.
A nutritional based education is important for encouraging healthier lifestyles. In America, one in six children are considered obese. Obesity is defined either by being in the 95th percentile in both height and weight categories or by having excess body fat. Exposing the children to different foods at a young age and encouraging them to explore the food allows them to have a connection to the object which increases their comfort and openness to that particular food item.
Dan Jurafsy wrote “The Languages of Food” to look at food in a different way. Understanding food in its most basic form allows the children explore the ingredients and have knowledge over the origin of what they consume. There is a sense of harmony with the environment as the children grow vegetables in the garden and eat them later during mealtime. This hands-on experience excites the children and inspires them to grow more food, develop individual interests, and have some control over the direction of their learning.