“Ms. Mollie, I am going to win this game!” said one of the 18 students who regularly stay after school for our Harp Elementary Garden & Cooking Club. It was our second to last week and these students were in for an exciting treat. Garden club normally involves about 45-60 minutes of garden work followed by some form of cooking or healthy snack preparation. This day, however, was unique. We were celebrating the hard work and fun we had over the course of our ten meetings this spring. We were playing Fear Factor.
For those of you, like my students, who are not familiar with the older show, I’ll provide a basic explanation: In a simple sense, the show puts people in scary situations and they win if they can handle them. Sometimes the episode includes a challenge in which contestants must eat very scary foods. While we were not delving into the depths of scary, scary foods, there were a lot of new and different items on our tasting menu. I chose this game because it acknowledges that trying new foods can be scary, but also exciting and fun.
I figured there would be some students super interested, and others who would refuse, but when I brought out the blindfolds they were all ecstatic. One student in particular, who really did not like trying anything new, ran to his spot at the table and prepared for whatever exotic fruit or vegetable I had. We decided it was each garden club grower for themselves and that you would only get a point if you ate the entire sample placed in your hand. The very first item brought out was the purple carrot. I knew every student in my garden club liked and ate carrots over the course of our time together, so I thought this would be a fun way to get us started. Each student was blindfolded and their sample was placed into their hand, creating a sense of excitement I hadn’t expected, and made the game that much more fun for them (and me). It didn’t take them long to know it was a carrot but when I had them remove their blindfolds and look at the beautiful dark purple veggie, they were shocked and all wanted to take some home! It was great to show them that even when things might look different, they can still be delicious.
Our next items were not so mundane, they included a variety of fruits and vegetables that the students had labeled as exotic the week before. These included star fruit, horn melon, eggplant, turnips, dates, and lastly, aloe vera. I was certain that amongst these different fruits and vegetables the competition would be weeded out and I would be left with one winner, but boy was I wrong. When checking out at the grocery store I had told the cashier my plan for the food and she looked at me a bit shocked saying, “I don’t know about fresh aloe, it is pretty bad tasting and gross.” I smiled and thought, maybe I’m cruel…I suppose I will just open it up and show them the aloe, maybe have them rub some on their arms.
In the midst of this intense and overwhelming competition, I knew we had to have a winner—I only had one watermelon prize. (Yes, the winner won a quartered watermelon). I cut into the aloe in front of the students, handed them each their piece, and then had them line up to eat it one by one; thinking this would surely create a winner. Every student ate the gooey, glumpy, slimy gel from inside the aloe vera plant. I was shocked! When did these students become so brave and trusting of me? Needless to say, we did not have a winner after my desperate attempt at a final round and I took a look around the garden contemplating what to do next…
Luckily I had extra rainbow carrots in my bag and decided these would put an end to this intense Fear Factor battle. To produce one winner, we held a carrot eating competition that required each contestant to chew thoroughly and finish his or her entire carrot, followed by a date. This was a site to see but ended with one valiant, proud and passionate winner. He left screaming to the bus driver, “LOOK AT THIS WATERMELON, I WON THIS FOR EATING A BUNCH OF VEGETABLES AND FRUIT!” I was proud.
After the competition was over, students shared leftover horn melon, starfruit, eggplant and crazy colored carrots while energetically talking about all the different foods they had just tried. They even passed around the aloe and took turns putting it on their arms, faces, and legs. It was a delight to watch these young people try all of these new fruits and vegetables and have fun, even if they all weren’t their favorite (especially the aloe). As a FoodCorps service member, we are constantly asking our students to be brave, try something new, and be excited about it. This game of Fear Factor showed me just how much fun it can be to try something new—or in this case, a lot of something news—while teaching the valuable lesson that different can be delicious too. I will definitely be using this style of game in future lessons as a way of introducing new foods and making it clear to the students that trying things is not always easy, but that it definitely can be fun! #trynewthings