UBC Teacher Candidate, Culinary Arts
As part of my Bachelor of Education degree I spent 3 weeks volunteering with the Landed Learning Project. This activity was developed and piloted with children in the Project.
How can we engage students in engaging the sense of taste? How can taste enrich our understanding of the world, heighten other senses, and help us make connections? In what ways can it ignite curiosity and creativity? Taste is a great way to introduce adjectives!
By facilitating meaningful experiences of hunting for and tasting fresh garden plants, this activity is meant to help students communicate their sense experiences as well as fostering an appreciation for and interest in their food sources. By having the students assess what they are eating using only value-neutral descriptors, students avoid prejudicing themselves against different flavours.
The story: Students participated in a 15 minute mini-version of this activity which could be expanded greatly with more time.
I had students work in groups of 3-4 and gave each group a sheet with 1 or 2 edible plants to look for—including a picture, a brief description, and blank space for sensory description. Our garden is filled with leaves the children already know are edible, and some they have never tried. In early May we have mint, lemon balm, kale, chard, parsley, lovage, chives, rosemary, cultivative sorrel, sheep sorrel, wood sorrel, dandelion, lettuce, arugula, spinach, oregano, to name a few. Students had 10 minutes to look for their plants.
Students bring back samples of their leaves to the big group. It’s important especially with young children or those who might be new to the garden that an adult confirm positive identification of the leaves before students do any tasting.
Once the leaves have been positively identified, students can taste each one and see what word they can come up with to describe the flavour. You may want to provide a word list. These adjectives can be tailored, to some extent, to the appropriate grade level. Having dictionaries available is also an option.
Have students share their favorite leaves and pick some more. They can combine their leaf harvest into a bowl to make a group salad or blend them into pestos of different flavours to be eaten on crackers or veggie sticks.
Since the key focus of the activity is communication (finding the words to express their experience) it can easily be used as a springboard into a number of different disciplines: science (of taste, of plant anatomy, etc.), writing (descriptive paragraphs), social studies (basic food systems), art, and possibly more. It could also be used as one of several activities focused on a particular core competency (thinking, personal & social, communication—See B.C.’s new curriculum).