This week some of our third graders were able to taste a garden fresh, Brandywine, heirloom tomato for the first time. This particular fruit was the first to ripen from their tomato patch. More are on the way. Brandywines have a long history of being known for their “true tomato” flavor, meaty flesh and unusual shape. This one lived up to that reputation. Whenever we enjoy something from the garden we try to link it to something in the classroom. Once you realize that everything is or can be connected, this isn’t really hard to do. It was decided that when we brought this tomato into the classroom we would also introduce the students to a metric scale. This particular model was a triple beam balance scale, so finding the weight of this trophy was fun and a bit challenging for them. We weighed a couple of other objects first (a big bottle of glue and an apple) and then tried to estimate the weight of the brandywine.
Of course a scale like this is interesting by itself, but when you put a big, red, juicy tomato on it; it is arguably more so. Not surprisingly, when you put a tomato on a novel piece of scientific equipment that tomato becomes more interesting as well. By the time we pulled out the knife and cut into it, kids were literally on the edge of their seats. There was enough for everyone to get a taste. Of course the first bite was free, but the second bite had to be earned by writing a couple of really good sentences in their garden journals. No problem.
Mrs. Webster’s Pre-K class recently enjoyed their day in the dirt. Tables were placed just outside the classroom with a wheelbarrow full of soil and some buckets of water standing by. One student, before the festivities, was overheard telling Mrs. Webster that he didn’t like getting dirty. Mrs. Webster just smiled. Behold the power of mud. It was no time before little hands and big imaginations dug in to create oatmeal and chocolate milk, cookie dough and pizza pies. Chocolate seemed to be a theme on the menu and it turns out everything tastes better with a garnish of grass clippings.
It may seem that these children are only having fun, but there is an underlying lesson. It’s a subtle message but one that is fundamental. Soil is the source of all that we eat. The sooner we can introduce this to children (even through play) the more likely they will value healthy real food and respect the process that brings it from that source to their table. In the mean time, bon appetit!