Saturday, January 26, 2013

World Grains

My students are now expert at world grains. And hopefully our "travels" have also given some much needed review of the continents.

This week we cooked rye berries while reading a short article that hinted that rye was primarily farmed in Europe without actually saying so. A perfect opportunity to practice the reading skill of inferring!

I cracked up when kids described the cooked rye as looking like maggots. One student took a leap of faith, tried the cooked berries, and then exclaimed, "It tastes like insects crawling around in my mouth!" Needless to say, he did not finish his serving! Personally, I thought that they tasted like a more savory version of wheat berries, but I like that pop-and-smush texture under my teeth.
Exploring an uncooked grain
We also made polenta out of cornmeal, which made me feel Fagan-like again when serving the thin gruel. After a short discussion I convinced most everyone that people generally don't dry corn kernels and then cook the whole kernel after it's been dried, so it was okay for us to use cornmeal as a starting point.


This week's highlight, for me at least, was cooking t'eff, a tiny brown African grain. When kids saw the cooked product, many exclaimed, "It looks like brown amaranth!" I love that their horizons' have expanded so much that they are using a somewhat obscure grain like amaranth as a reference point for the newest weird grain.

T'eff was very popular with some but less appreciated overall. Considering its price and how difficult it is to access, it is also the least likely grain to eat on a regular basis. (I ordered a pound of it from an Amazon seller for a whopping $10.85, whereas every other grain was available locally.)

This week I've also been modeling the research process with a familiar continent: North America. Next week everyone will start researching a continent of choice, learning about its geography, climate, native peoples, immigrants, and staple foods. We'll put all our learning together on a website, which will be a new technological accomplishment for me.

Class display with a small bag of a representative grain connected to each continent, expanded below

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