Challenging children’s perceptions
As many children were only eating plain rice or pasta and refusing any fresh and healthy food, I introduced an Eat a rainbow program aiming to change the children’s perception about food. The program encourages children to explore fresh and healthy foods in all the colours of the rainbow.
“Food can trick you”
We focused on the psychology behind food choices. At the beginning, I offered 99% dark chocolate and a plate of fresh strawberries. Thinking like scientists, the children made predictions about which food they believed would be the most delicious and then tasted them to see. The children were shocked when they experienced the bitter chocolate as revolting and the strawberries as way more delicious. From this experience they learned not to make any assumptions about food before they’d tried it as “food can trick you”. They are now willing to put new foods into their mouths, including beetroot and zucchini.
Documenting the process
Each new food the children try, we categorise and label with how they felt about the food. This is documented on a poster. The children are conscious of the STEM thinking involved in the process: They use their senses, consider their predictions and observations, test their ideas, modify their preconceptions, document their learning and assess progress. Before we started the program, I asked each child to categorise different fruit and vegetables into three piles: ”Yes, please”, “No, thank you” or “I haven’t tried it yet”. I am using the results of this pre-program survey to determine which foods to target. At the end of the program I will ask each child the same questions and see how many foods have now moved from “No, thank you” or “I haven’t tried it yet” to the ”Yes, please” category. This functions as our qualitative assessment of the program.
Happy healthy eaters
Although we haven’t completed the program yet, we can already see its benefits: The children are eating more vegetables at lunch with enthusiasm and their psychology and fear about foods has transformed. We keep updating the parents on our progress and pass on recipes each time we have a food adventure. This has proven very successful and we have heard from families who have recreated some of the meals requested by the children at home, such as beetroot berry sorbet.
Article author: Hayley Drennan
Kindergarten teacher at Little Scientists House Saltwater Childcare Centre in Footscray, Melbourne
Hayley is one of our STEM leaders and believes that viewing our environment through the lens of STEM brings magic and learning to everyday situations.