Try Things & Make my Heart Sing

“I am not a fan…

But can I try it again just to make sure?”

I feel like it is a rare occurrence when you have a third grader wanting to continually try new foods, especially a new food she is already convinced she is not a fan of. When I was this age I was incredibly stubborn about trying new foods and here was this little girl who was trying a grape tomato for the third time now, even though she didn’t like it the first two rounds. I was floored.

When I began teaching at Forest Hills Global Elementary the third graders were just beginning to learn about human anatomy, I thought there could be no better way to connect this lesson then to the benefits of eating a rainbow and supplementing this by trying new foods.

Our first day together we took a big piece of butcher paper, sketched our “victim” student, and then had a courtroom style hearing in which students had to convince the rest of the class why their color of the rainbow was the best for their little bodies as I drew their arguments into the sketched victim.

The benefits of eating a rainbow and the color purple.
The benefits of eating a rainbow and the color purple.

At the end of this, the students began to take note of how important and beneficial it is for them to eat a wide variety of colors. Realizing and appreciating that we should have diversity in the colors of food on our plates, just as in our classrooms.

Every week after this we began to work our way through the rainbow, trying foods correlating to each color. Students kept observation logs documenting their experience. Some drew photos, others polled fellow classmates on their taste preference, almost all highlighting at least one of their 5 senses and states of matter. The students were able to explore different foods through tasting, cooking, discussions, and even hands on exploration activities.

A student's daily observation on carrots.
A student’s daily observation on carrots.

We focused on foods that every student would be able to eat, with several students in the grade having very common allergies such as nuts to not so known, for instance citrus. Over the course of the series the students were able to try grape tomatoes, carrots, spaghetti squash, green apples, and blueberries.

My only request was simple, just try a bite. If you’re going into it knowing that you’re not a fan, just give it a tiny shot and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to finish it.

A student gobbling up some spaghetti squash. Unbeliever turned fan!
Nathan gobbling up some spaghetti squash. Unbeliever turned fan!

Which brings me back to Tatiyana, the champion of trying things. She never complained, never tried to convince me before trying a fruit or veggie why she didn’t like it. When we counted 1-2-3 in preparation for our first bite she was almost always one of the first to take a bite, sitting there and pondering the taste before making a decision on her preference. The first two weeks with grape tomatoes and carrots she wasn’t a fan of the texture, sourness, and flavor. She was content with the spaghetti squash when garnished with tomato sauce. I made it a mission to find at least one fruit or vegetable that she would love.

The last two weeks were the ticket, or so I thought. Within taking her first bite of the apple and blueberry jam you instantly could see her face light up. She was a lover.

Little lady made my heart sing yet again today when we were exploring the garden in our garden scavenger hunt. I threw the offer down on the table that the students could try crops growing in the garden if they would like, and she was instantly by my side. Can I try the Kale? Romaine? Lettuce? Mint? Cabbage? Onion? Those are sweet potatoes!? What about rosemary and lavender? They smell pretty. Anything and everything she could try in the garden, she did.

Tatiyana trying kale in the school garden!
Tatiyana trying kale in the school garden!

If a seven year old can open her heart and mind up to trying new things, despite being weary, then I challenge you to do the same.