Monday, May 7, 2012

The Lesson I Wish I'd Taught

Anyone who has ever taught anyone anything will have had the experience of getting halfway through the teaching of the whatever and realizing there was a better way to do it.

That's sort of what happened this afternoon.

I had adapted a lesson from the Nourish curriculum that got kids thinking about what local foods are available for them to eat. I started by asking them to create a My Plate meal that incorporated proteins, grains, fruits, veggies and dairy. They have lots of experience with this, having created meals this way as part of health curriculum, in social studies, and when voting on student choice meals for the hot lunch program. Today's twist was my plan to have them analyze their meal after they created it, to identify which foods were local or could be sourced locally.

As they worked on their my plates, I put one up on the board. I had gorged on the hot lunch of baked potatoes, black beans, broccoli, salad, grapes, eggs, cottage cheese and milk. I'm still stuffed now, three hours later! And as I put it up on the board, I realized that we could look at the meal through several lenses. I would have created a worksheet to guide kids through this process had I had my realization with enough lead time to make one.

Instead, I had them set their meals aside and we went through my meal and identified which items were whole foods and which were processed. I used one color marker to circle all the whole foods. Then I had kids discuss with each other which foods they thought were local. We discussed as a class and I circled those foods in a different color.  Then we did a little math: two thirds of my lunch was whole foods, and one third was local. One A-hah was realizing that the milk we get is distributed out of Texas. Surprising considering dairy is such a big part of the agricultural economy here in Vermont.

I had the kids look through their meals and come up with rough estimate fractions of how local and unprocessed their meals might be. This part could have been the place where each student really had to get into their meal and do some thinking, but I kept it quick becausewe were running short on time and I hadn't structured the beginning of the lesson in a way that let this happen in a maximal engagement/learning kind of way. Next time, right? Or, possibly, another day. We could come back to this type of meal analysis, which would get kids more in the habit of thinking about their food this way.

I still have some outstanding stuff from last week to share, but that will have to wait for another day....

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