Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Fresh (Φρέσκο)

Could you teach your child to do this? And what is it exactly that these kids are eating?

artichoke leaves
(Watch the little girl eating something else.)

Jamie Oliver could show this photo to some other children to once more 'prove' that they don't know their greens, the way he did in West Virginia recently, when he showed a child a potato and asked it if it was a tomato (or was it the other round? I can't remember). Just as long as he knows it's an artichoke (and these kids are eating the leaf tips). It's always been a tough job trying to teach children to eat their greens (whether the vegetables are greens or red or yellow or purple) - and it's also difficult to get children to eat things that they are unfamiliar with - remember the Pakistani restaurant episode?

But I'm also wondering whether Jamie led those poor lost souls on in such a way that they would have given him the wrong answer, no matter what he asked them, even if they did in fact know the right answer. Were those young children psychologically attuned to giving a positive response (ie a YES answer) to all of Jamie's questions, regardless of the phrasing, content or intention, because they thought that this was what was expected of them? The 'expected' answer is viewed positively, while giving a different response is viewed as taboo, wrong, bad, something like chickening out.

This reminds me of my daughter learning the timestables, and how I'd trick her every now and then to make sure she was really understanding what she was doing instead of learning it off by heart. After we'd written out the timestables in numerical order, and then in random order, and finally in jumbled form, so that she had to think hard about the answer and count on her fingers if she couldn't remember it off by heart, I asked her:

"What's zero times three?"

She looked at me blankly. "That's not in the timestable."

"No," I answered, "but you know the answer, don't you?"

Her look hinted at uncertainty. "Zero?" she asked, not replied, because she was now stumped; I had thrown her off course.

"Are you sure?" I asked her, just to confuse her even more.

Again, a distrusting look. "Yyyyyeeeessss..."

"OK, so what's three times zero, then?"

Now she was really stumped.I decided to give her a hint."You know the answer to zero times three, now give me the answer to three times zero."

"Aaaaaaah, what did we say that was again?"

"You work it out, like you did last time." Tough mummy. But she got the positive response she wanted to get - that she was somehow 'correct' the last time she gave me the answer.

"Zero?" she asked, again with hesitation in her voice.

"Are YOU sure?" Very tough mummy.

"Mmmmmmm, nnnnoooo."

Before I did any more damage that day, I gave her the answer and congratulated her on knowing her timestables. But she's still wondering why I confuse her every now and again.

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Maybe those Huntington kids were just following the leader (ie copying the first child's answer, which may unfortunately have been the wrong answer), because of that human tendency that shows up in all human beings at one time or other, to simply follow the sheep at the front: remember the "four feet good, two feet bad" chant?

I think that probably what was happening, as it usually does at such a young age, when children's logic and confidence skills are still in their infancy and not very well developed, is that the children were expecting to be rewarded for giving the answer that they thought was expected of them, regardless whether they knew the right or wrong answer.

There's also the other issue of not knowing how to make a connection between the raw food and the cooked food, the lack of experience in the kitchen as well as the shopping, all of which may lead us to believe that Jamie might have a point after all, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Here's a slideshow of some old photographs from my collection presented in a new way. It makes a good teaching tool for school teachers to get kids talking about food preparation and the processing of ingredients.

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TASK: Ask children to think about the food they eat, and to see if they can name the ingredients that are needed to prepare the meals/dishes they mention. To simplify matters, ask them to think only about the fruit and/or vegetables in the meal (but make sure to omit the meat: it is a trickier task).

Now show them the slideshow, and ask them if they recognise what each plant is.

Then ask the children to think about where each ingredient in their chosen meal comes from, and if they have actually seen it themselves growing on a tree/plant.

Finally, get the students to think about what happened to this fresh product once it was harvested (ie in what ways it was processed), before it could be used in the meal they mentioned.

We all love the idea of fresh, but just how fresh is what we eat?
When we get it in our hands, what do we have to do with it before we can eat it?

This exercise can be used in classrooms that are equipped with online tools, so it's not possible to use it in most Greek schools at the moment; Mr P has promised this to us in the next teaching year - let's see...

Use WH- words to make up questions (which can be tailored for younger through to older pupils):
eg WHO eats these vegetables? WHO grows these vegetables? WHERE are they grown? WHAT meals use these vegetables, WHEN are they grown? WHICH are preferable for certain meals? HOW are they grown? etc.

The children may also use their own cameras to create their own set of fruit and vegetable photos, perhaps as they watch their parents cooking, or doing the shopping, or gardening. If these activities aren't done by the parents, then you've got a problem on your hands, I suppose; they could photograph some of their meals, and then work out what was in them using these pictures and other ideas you give them.

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