Teacher, Joel Fraser cuts a turnip for students to taste.
Tuesdays may be boring days for some middle school students, but Adrian Cook, a sixth grader at Crest Middle School (CMS) looks forward each week to "Tasting Tuesdays," a tradition that has been going on in Joel Fraser's classroom for three years.
"My job is to teach them history before the year 1450," says Fraser. "For kids who can't even imagine a world without computers and cell phones, that can be hard to do."
One solution that Fraser came up with to help the students relate to people in the ancient world was to give them a literal "taste" of what these people ate.
"So when we studied the Egyptians, we tasted lentils and dates," says Fraser, who says that the students' reactions to the different foods have been mixed.
Cook couldn't be there the day that the class tried lentils, but she loved the dates.
"They tasted exactly like prunes. And I know I would have liked the lentils," she says. "Everyone else said that the lentils were disgusting, but I know I would have liked them because I have liked everything Mr. Fraser has given us to taste."
Fraser has also expanded the "Tuesday Tastings" to include items from the CMS school garden, which is sponsored by the Cleveland County Health Department (CCHD). Garlic, winter squash and turnips have been the latest crops available for tasting.
"I don't make them try anything. They get to decide if they want to try it. But a lot of them will choose to try the foods, which are usually new to them," says Fraser.
Working in the garden also increases the students' appreciation for the foods they eat, says Fraser. As part of the school garden project, the kids plant, weed, water and harvest the food in the garden.
"Kids are much more likely to eat things they have had a hand in growing themselves," says Fraser.
And the lessons of the gardens and tastings do not end at the classroom door, either.
"One student told me that she asked her mother to cook some lentils," says Fraser.
For Cook, working in the school garden has inspired her to plant her own garden this spring.
"I'm going to grow corn, tomatoes, squash, beans, cucumbers and okra," she says.
Last week, Fraser brought an Indian curry dish made by a lady in his church. Once again, his students were delighted to try something new.
"Food is a great way to make connections with other cultures. The kids ask me how people in the past made things without blenders or microwaves. This really gives the kids insight into what the world was like for people long ago, and it helps them to think about the food that they eat themselves each day," says Fraser.
For those interested in helping out with the school garden project, volunteers are needed, especially to help maintain the gardens over the summer months. Thirteen Cleveland County schools have gardens, which were provided through the CCHD's Eat Smart Move More Community Grant program. For more information about volunteering, contact Susan Willis, Public Health Educator for the CCHD, by calling 980-484-5205 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By April Hoyle Shauf
Special to Community First Media