How on earth do you teach nutrition to first graders?! They have been instructed that they should eat healthy to grow big and strong, as most of us were told when we were small, but what does that really mean when you’re only six years old? But tell a first grader that they are going to learn how to be a superhuman, and immediately you have twenty pairs of eager eyes on you, just waiting to hear about how they, too, can latch on to a little bit of this magic.
I had the joy of teaching first graders at Hyalite Elementary that by “Eating a Rainbow,” they could become superhumans. By illustrating what different colored fruits and vegetables would do for various body parts, students took a Magic School Bus-style dive into the human body. They explored the unique vitamins and minerals that brightly colored, fresh produce items have and were able to see how they are incorporated into their eyes, bones blood and brain. With each layer of the “rainbow” that was added to our superhuman came exclamations of shock and awe.
“This is like an X-ray!” was one excited squeal.
It was amazing to observe them make the connections between foods as simple as raw vegetables and the ways these foods are actually put to use inside their bodies.
After we mapped out our superhuman on paper, students got to sample a rainbow of fresh local produce, making little kebabs of tomato, carrot, pepper, kale and cabbage. They exhibited positivity and bravery in the face of trying new foods and encouraged each other to take just one bite of something outside their comfort zone. Watching them cheering each other on was really wonderful, and I look forward to adding to the building blocks of their positive school food experiences.
Later that day, as the students walked to lunch, I heard one tell her friend, “We have to go eat a rainbow!”
About Meghan Montgomery
Whitney serves with FoodCorps in Bozeman, MT. Meghan feels a deep connection to service and the environment that’s reflected in her work and volunteer experience. She has volunteered for the Desert Development Center in Cairo, Egypt, where she worked with local farmers to implement efficiency-building technologies for the region. That opportunity guided her in her time as an environmental educator in Moab, UT, where she worked as a naturalist for the Canyonlands Field Institute, continuing her learning in producing food in water-constrained environments. She is eager to continue practicing sustainable food production that, she says, “preserves and extends the functionality of the ecosystem and emphasizes educating the community about the values and cultural influence of food and the natural environment.”