Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What about food and cooking?

Kid need experiences to attach words to...if it’s not in the heart, hands, bones, it’s not in the brain. – Bev Bos

Time to share about our newest topic in the Big Cats ...

We've started a new exploration - all about food, with a special emphasis on nutrition and cooking. We've been talking all year about healthy food and healthy habits...now we're experiencing how delicious it is to cook and create together. 

We are taking so many fun tangents...such as creating a super big cardboard food truck! We needed something big enough for us to climb into, allowing us to pretend to deliver school lunches to our school (we watch a real truck come and go everyday in our alley), or to sell food to employees downtown and throughout the city, or perhaps it is a farmer's market food truck. So many uses for a good truck when you are working with food!

So, let's get working on the food truck...

It took a lot of hard work, focused creativity, everyone working together, but we did it!!

Don't forget that the truck needs a label! We'll write "food" on it.

On second thought, let's paint the truck and we'll add a new "food" sign later.

Cooking is a big part of this unit. We are creating at least one yummy and nutritious recipe a week, with a special emphasis on "healthy eating." The teachers are selecting the recipes based on available cooking tools and children's interests. We don't have a kitchen at our school, but we have electricity...so we have an electric skillet, blender, wok, food processor, etc. Other than the recipe selection, the children are doing all the doing!

The process begins with the children

- sharing what they know about a particular recipe, 
- brainstorming lists of their wonderings about the food, 
- writing shopping lists, and 
- walking to the local grocery store for these ingredients.

Let me share a couple shopping lists that the children wrote -

(I particularly like how Bella's seems to replicate the quick, haphazard writing of adults' grocery lists!)

Here we are, walking to the grocery store to purchase the ingredients for our first recipe - making fruit smoothies.

Before going into the store, we reviewed and practiced our "store" behaviors - how to walk (holding that rope, moving slowly and carefully), what voice to use (inside, quiet voice), where to keep our hands (one on the walking rope, other on our hip), how to find ingredients (search with our eyes and calmly alert the teacher - "Ms. Ingram, I see strawberries!")

Believe it or not, we totally surprised a couple men that were stocking shelves - the children were so quiet, patient, and calm, they looked up at us and went wide-eyed, as if to say, "Wow! Look how many children!"

I thought a lot about how to organize the cooking experience so that each child gets the opportunity to measure and mix the ingredients.   We divided the class into four small groups (randomly assigned by choosing a numbered craft stick) for each cooking experience. Each recipe will be created four times from scratch.

Our first week, we made smoothies! Our ingredients included frozen mango and mixed berries, fresh strawberries and bananas, rice milk, and vanilla yogurt. Each small group worked together to decide the special ingredients to include in their fruit smoothie.  The children had lots of fun cutting, chopping, measuring, pouring, and pushing the buttons on the mixer, trying out the different speeds. Everyone agreed - yum!!

We enjoy the "science" aspect of cooking. One extension has been our sensory table, where we have been making many different "mixes" and seeing what happens when different ingredients are put together.  One day at morning gathering, we had a special visit from a crazy chef/scientist - "Chef Goop," who looked and sounded a lot like Ms. McCarthy except for her goggles, chef's hat, and apron. Chef Goop invited the children to explore mixtures with her - oil and water, flour and salt, salt and water, baking soda and vinegar, egg and flour. The children mixed, smelled, observed, guessed, and tasted (everything but the raw egg!). We explored and discussed the different chemical reactions of food - dissolving, emulsion, and more.  I was delighted by how much the children remembered from this dramatic improvisation...Chef Goop will be returning in the near future!

Of course, it wouldn't be my classroom if we didn't do some sort of engineering.  I found a new version of one of my favorite Russian folktales at the library - Grandma Lena's Big Ol' Turnip by Denia Lewis Hester and we built devices to get a giant turnip out of the ground. This led us to wondering about gardening - how plants grow, how to take care of plants, how big do plants become.

I'm amazed at how many great children's books there are about food - we have had some really fun read-alouds.  Let me share a few of our favorites thus far -

  • Truck Driver Tom by Monica Wellington (about a food delivery truck)
  • The First Strawberry by Joseph Bruchac (how important it is to speak kindly to each other)
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett (silly imaginative fun)
  • The Five Senses: Taste by Maria Ruis (how our body works)
  • Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley (commonalities between all cultures)
  • Lemonade in Winter in Emily Jenkins (introduces counting money)
  • Potato Joe by Keith Baker (familiar rhyme, delightful illustrations)
  • Hungry Hen by Richard Waring (turns classic "hen versus fox" tales upside down)
  • I Want to Be a Chef by Stephanie Maze (what would it be like to work in a restaurant)

We loved Tomie DePaola's Pancakes for Breakfast when we made pancakes in class...with this book, there are no words - the children told the story to us. What a great way to reinforce the learning from the cooking itself!  This week...we're building off of Eric Carle's Walter the Baker and making delicious pretzels. [For these, the children will mix the dough and roll out the pretzels but Ms. McCarthy will take home and bake for us. Thank you, Ms. McCarthy!!]

On several days, we have served lunch "farmer's market style." Here, the children are given five play coins to "buy" snack. The fruits, vegetables, and grains were set up as three separate stalls (tables) in the classroom and the children visited all three places to buy themselves a balanced snack. What a fun way to reinforce their number sense, too!

Yes, all of us - teachers and preschoolers - are really enjoying this new exploration. It is clear that we have many budding chefs and scientists!!

1 comment:

  1. Just marvelous to see, Maureen. I'm going to send this to my colleague who trades books with me. She teaches a class of our youngest students & does a 'food' year once in a while. Remember each student also has an individual unit & each class also has a class unit, or them, that stretches them in other ways. She will love seeing what you are doing, & has a vast array of foodie books! Great stuff, especially Chef Goop!