Sunday, November 18, 2012

Keeping It Simple

Inspired by last week's successful non-cooking food exploration, I decided to keep it simple for another week.

We are now studying the respiratory system and my extensive research (I Googled "respiratory system healthy foods") told me that hot liquids are the best way to clear mucus out of respiratory passages. This can prevent or reduce symptoms of respiratory ailments.

Why not host a tea tasting in my classroom?

I started water boiling on the two-burner stove more than an hour in advance, knowing the huge kettles I'd filled would take some time to heat up. We started the lesson by reading about how tea could positively impact our respiratory system. Ginger tea in particular is recommended because ginger has anti-inflammatory properties. I also showed them the lovely photos of tea being grown and picked in India and China at this website. We read the information at that site about different varieties of tea, most of which I'd purchased for sampling. The article recommended smelling the tea before tasting, and slurping to cool off the tea as it enters the mouth, then holding it on the tongue to "cover the palette." Fun stuff! I'd also copied a flavor wheel from the site and made up a small table for each student to record adjectives to describe what they tasted.

Each table got a bowl with an assortment of teas: black, green, oolong and a white ginger pear. I also brought the remains of a box of straight up ginger tea from home, but I only had three teabags left and it's kind of strong, so I saved that out for later.

Kids paired up to brew a cup of tea together. After sniffing it as it steeped, they poured half into a second cup and started the tasting.

Su and I stood at the ready, prepared to give kids more water as they finished one cup and were ready to brew another. To my surprise, the pace in the room slowed. I was amazed to see kids sitting calmly, sniffing, tasting, comparing notes. One sixth grader smiled at me with his hands wrapped around his warm cup, and said, "I'm just sipping my tea."

This series of photos should be entitled, "Kids with cups for noses."

Two students decided that one tea tasted like dirt and peppermint. I told them that foodies would use the term "earthy" instead of "dirt." One of the two shook her head and said firmly, "I'll call it dirt."

Over the course of half an hour, most kids brewed and tasted four kinds of tea and many were interested in trying the ginger tea, too. Only one student opted not to try any tea, but he did do some sniffing! Then I recruited him to be my photographer for the afternoon. (He's responsible for that great shot of amber tea pouring from one cup to the next.) Before we cleaned up, almost everyone's hands were up, wanting to share the adjectives that best described what the tea tasted like to them. The flavor wheel inspired adjectives including: hay, grassy, cedar, oak, honey, and beechnuts. On their own kids came up with: smoke, super amazing good, ewww, and even canned cat food!

I collected all the cups, planning to take them to the kitchen to run through the Hobart after school. There are eight kinds of the plague going around, so I decided that washing them in our sink wouldn't be sufficient. I'd also noticed my throat was hoarse after a full week working with my large group. "I'm ready for a cup of tea," I thought to myself.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I hope your holiday is filled with healthy, delicious foods, shared with those you love.

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