FoodCorps Friday- Exploring Creativity with Food and Gardening
By Deanna Perlman, Walton County Soil and Water Conservation District FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member
It all started with a lesson about whole grains. I was showing my students how to make waffles using whole wheat flour and brought blueberries to top them off. At that moment, a light bulb went on in my head as the blueberry juice ran down the side of the waffles and hit the paper plates, staining them a beautiful, deep purple. I started imagining watercolors in every color of the rainbow made from fruit and vegetables and decided the art teacher was just the person I needed to talk to.
I shared with her my genius idea and proposed teaching lessons that would incorporate food and gardening into art. I quickly made an ally at a school where I was struggling to find teachers who shared my vision. To me, this was the perfect match. Art teachers do not shy away from messy hands-on lessons and embrace the chaos that ensues when children are given just a little freedom to express themselves. Art in its very nature is a multidisciplinary subject and has always led the way in taking a more holistic approach to education. Within the walls of public school, the art classroom is my sanctuary. It brings relief to me in a place where learning is less and less about play and exploration and more about standards and tests.
As enthusiastic as I was about working with the art teacher, it didn’t take long for me to realize I was way over my head. I was now responsible for leading a lesson for 120 2nd graders about something I had never actually done before. If there’s anything at all I’ve learned from FoodCorps service, it’s to practice your lesson before you actually teach it. As someone experienced in dyeing textiles, I should have known that just because a plant produces color does not mean it will transfer well to cloth or paper. I experimented with several vegetables and got nothing but a hint of dull color. It’s no wonder teachers often choose to just teach by the book! After hours of searching the internet, googling DIY watercolors, desperately trying to find something that would work, I decided to scrap the lesson. I did not want my first time teaching an art class to be a total failure. I had to make a good impression.
So I quickly learned the second most important lesson– always have a plan B. Since I was going to be teaching about eating a rainbow, I decided to do vegetable printing instead. That way students would be able to experience not only the various colors and tastes of vegetables, but discover the endless shapes and patterns in nature as well. I showed up at school on Monday morning, trucking in a load of colorful veggies and striking curiosity from students and teachers alike. I set up a display with every color represented and led a discussion about the importance of eating a rainbow of colorful foods. In my experience, nutrition is a hard concept to grasp for young children. Explaining that colorful fruits and vegetables support different parts of our body is a good foundation for helping children understand how to make healthy choices.
Each table in the classroom had a plate of various sliced vegetables alongside a plate of paints. I instructed students to create patterns and designs that used different colors and shapes. Every step of the way was a sensory experience and provided an opportunity to actually look at each individual vegetable, its shape, its texture, and other attributes that would perhaps be overlooked on the dinner plate- the underside of a mushroom, the waves of a cabbage, the spiral of a cauliflower, or the ribs of a stalk of celery. One starts to see the artistry of nature, the very things that inspire us as human beings to create our own works of art.
After the students each created their own works of fruit and vegetable art, they tried three fruits and vegetables, and were encouraged to try a fruit or veggie they’ve never tried before.
There is joy and fulfillment in the act of creating something with your own two hands. I believe as humans we all have that creative spirit and as a FoodCorps Americorps service member, I think one of my most important responsibilities is to help students tap into what they already have and discover creative possibilities in everyday life. In becoming creators themselves, children start to make connections and understand the importance of such questions as, where does it come from? How is it made? And who made it? They begin to acknowledge and appreciate the time, labor, and resources that go into the things we use and consume on an everyday basis. When children are engaged in the creation of something rather than simply being the passive consumers that society encourages them to be, they are invited to become active participants in the world around them.
For more information about leading a vegetable printing activity with kids, refer to the lesson plan below-
ART- 2nd grade
Vegetable Printing/Eat a Rainbow
Discussion- 5 min.
What are the colors of the rainbow?
What does it mean to eat a rainbow?
- It means to eat a variety of foods that are naturally colorful!
What are some foods that are colorful, but maybe aren’t very good for our bodies, and why?
- Ex: Candies with color additives, high in sugar.
- Inform students that when we refer to eating a colorful diet during this lesson, we are referring to naturally colored foods, not the foods students named as being colorful but not so good for us.
Why is it important to “eat a rainbow?”
Do you think diversity is important to your diet?
- Eating foods that are naturally different colors means that we are eating a variety of food that provide different nutrients and keep different parts of our body healthy
- Fruits and vegetables that are naturally colorful contain a lot of vitamins and minerals that help fight disease and prevent us from getting sick
- Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables will support the body in all around health
Eat a Rainbow Display- 2 min.
- What part of the body does each color support and keep healthy?
RED (heart and skin)- apple, radish
ORANGE (eyes, skin, heart)- sweet pepper, carrot
YELLOW/WHITE (heart)- corn, mushroom, cauliflower
GREEN (gut, bones, brain)- celery, broccoli, okra
BLUE/PURPLE (brain)- cabbage, potato
Instructions and demonstration for printing with veggies- 5 min.
- Students will paint vegetables and use them as stamps onto a sheet of paper in their design of choice
Vegetable printing- 20 min.
- Students should avoid mixing paint colors, and should be encouraged to share paints and vegetable stamps with others
Clean up- 5 min.
Taste Test- 5 min.
*Students will try three different colored foods of their choice, encouraging them to try new foods they aren’t familiar with. Have students share their preference of vegetables by voting.
Reflection- 10 min.
- Share your painting
- What new foods did you try? Which were your favorite? What colors did you eat and what part of your body were they good for?
- Table cloth
- Paper plates
- Paper towels/napkins
- Serving plates/tray for each color
- Signs for each color, vegetable, and corresponding body part
- Sliced veggies
- Sliced veggies
- Paint brushes
- 3 gallon buckets for washing/composting veggies
- Buy vegetables and paper plates
- Find serving plates, trays, bowls, etc. for display and taste test
- Make signs for color, vegetable, and body part
- Slice vegetables for printing and taste test
- Set out paper, paint, paint brushes, sponges, water, towels, and vegetables at each table