In past posts, my fellow FoodCorps service members have mentioned getting a little silly while teaching in the classroom, garden or cafeteria in order to get students excited about fruits and veggies. I must admit, I’ve followed their lead. It might be the goofy camp counselor in me, but I LOVE to sing. I love to sing songs with hand motions, repeat after-me, clapping, etc. Most importantly, I love to get my students singing, especially when it’s about food.

In my own educational experience, I know I have learned much that I cannot recall. However there are a few things I will never forget, including: the quadratic formula, ALL of the prepositions, what a palindrome is, and the French alphabet. A seemingly random assortment, but I learned each of those concepts in song. How often do we find ourselves humming a popular radio tune from 2005, yet we can’t quite recall the name of that book from English class in that same year? Songs stick.

Singing in Class

Teaching nutrition and garden lessons in an after-school program doesn’t always lend itself to detailed projects or worksheets. Students have been sitting and learning all day, and like anyone else, they want to move! They do not want to listen to a lecture on plant parts.

Quite frankly, neither would I.

So at the Lockwood Boys and Girls Club, we sing. A lot. Our students are smart, but their attention span is shorter than normal after a full day of school. Singing is quick and easy, and as far as I can tell, a great way to learn.

Just the other day I started with a new group of students for our weekly after school cooking club. We usually make easy to prepare foods that students can replicate at home, like smoothies or homage ranch dressing, but on this particular day we were preparing a sweet potato chili to serve at the Boys and Girls Club annual chili cook off! One of the club members is also in a 3rd grade class that I see regularly in the Lockwood Elementary School, where the Boys and Girls Club is located. I teach in both locations to reach a wider range of students, and those I see in both locations are great helpers when it comes to teaching other club members, since we sing songs in the classroom as well. As I presented the ingredients for the chili we would be making, she pointed at the carrots.

“I LOVE carrots!!” she exclaimed. “Remember when we tried them and sang that song?” She was referring to the Plant Parts Song that I had taught her class in conjunction with a plants part salad we prepared.

I decided to test her a bit and asked, “Of course! Do you remember what plant part the carrots were?” I watched her do the hand motions while she mentally ran through the Plant Parts Song in her head. I could almost hear her thoughts, “Roots…Stems…Leaves…Flowers…Fruit…Seeds…”

“ROOTS!” she cried.

I smiled. Mission accomplished.

This blog post was written by Maggie Harkins, the FoodCorps service member in Billings, MT where she is making cooking healthy foods fun for the kids at the Boys and Girls Club.