By Jill Quirk & the Heloise Lorimer School STEAM Team
“What’s your food’s story?” is a STEAM Team original Design Challenge. STEAM Team members wanted students at Heloise Lorimer School to learn about where their food comes from, how to make their own food and analyze the chemistry of their food (biochemistry) to make better decisions on what they eat. Two STEAM Teams helped to create this challenge – A Grade 4/5 team and a Grade 6 team, each team meets once a week to come up with ways to challenge students to think about the food they eat.
The UK Mental Health Foundation suggests, “There is research to suggest that what we eat may affect not just our physical health, but also our mental health and wellbeing”.
Grades 1 to 6 are working on this Food Design Challenge. There are currently 16 classes that participate in our school’s STEAM challenges. Classes come to the STEAM lab once a week to be inspired to make, create and play using food as the focus. The goal is to help students learn about food in innovative ways. The WHY behind this challenge (explained in more detail in last month’s magazine) is to show students that there is a direct correlation between healthy bodies and healthy minds. Food has the power to bring happiness to a person’s life… and so does our HLS STEAM Teams!
The Design Challenge: What’s your food’s story? Can you create a Food Truck business that sells healthy food and focuses on being sustainable?
1. Identify the Problem – empathize with the “client”; in this case the “client” is our world and those who live in our world.
In this Design Challenge we are investigating, “how do we celebrate food while also being sustainable?” The #Whatsyourfood’sstory? Is designed to teach people (students) to honour and appreciate their food. We are searching for ways to encourage students to eat healthy, not waste food, learn how to be self-sufficient and innovative with food. We want students to understand why growing our own food is important to help encourage healthy eating. When researching about food and mental health, I found so many articles suggesting that bad diets can lead to depression and ADHD. The American Psychological Association stated, “… in a new study of 120 children and adolescents, consuming fast food, sugar and soft drinks was associated with a higher prevalence of diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (Pediatrics, Vol. 139, No. 2, 2017).”.
The STEAM Team identify that there is a problem with adolescents and bad diets. We think it is important for our community to find ways to help improve the health of our community members. During this challenge, we are teaching our community about healthy eating while also collecting food for our community in a Food Drive. Our STEAM program is focused on learning about Design Thinking while also giving back and building a stronger community. We are asking the kids when they come to the STEAM lab to bring in food items so we can build a large tower with the food.
The Veggie Monster, our STEAM mascot, is promoting kids to make healthy food choices. Students walk by our tower garden in the STEAM lab every day. It is full of fresh produce. We want kids to come and try the food in the STEAM lab’s tower garden and think about how delicious fresh food really is. **Insert trying out the lettuce from the tower garden. When students try the fresh lettuce or other produce, they are amazed at how much better it tastes then the store-bought items. The food trucks students are creating must be healthy, which can be tricky for students at Heloise Lorimer School. ** Insert Veggie Power mascot ** Insert Healthy Food Truck Challenge.
2. Explore the Problem – think of ways to solve the problem through tinkering in the STEAM lab (research and interviews).
STEAM members started with questions that students would interview each other with; What do you love about food? What makes certain foods unique and special? How can food tell us about a specific culture? What can we learn about food from our senses? These answers fuel students into making their own food truck business. Can you Make a Food Truck business that is healthy and sustainable?
Station 1: EXPLORE – Learning about food, culture and healthy eating. Creating menus/recipes.
What excites us about food? Some STEAM students wrote paragraphs to explain these food experiences answering, what is the best thing that I ever ate? The best stories were the ones that students shared a food experience with someone they loved.
For example, Bree in Grade 5 wrote about making lemon meringue pie with her grandma.
“I was waiting……and waiting……at the dinner table, then suddenly, my grandparents set down a lemon meringue pie, yum! It was sloppy but it looks so good at the same time! I started to dig into the amazing pie and I closed my eyes and held it in my mouth to get the sweet fluffy meringue and the sour tangy lemon. I ate slowly to admire the heavenly pie. I sit back and ask for seconds. Did you know that lemon meringue pie has lemon, sugar, and gelatin in it? My dad has no idea how to make the meringue! Good thing my grandma and my great grandma is around! Sour vs sweet. Sour desserts are my personal favorite, because I love lemon. Sour flavour brings a tangy sour flavor. I really like how it also tastes sweet. Meringue brings a sweet consistency to a lemon meringue pie. Lemon meringue pie is perfect for a sweet and sour dessert. This pie makes me feel warm inside and happy and calm I love it! Especially when my grandma makes it homemade with my help! I also love this pie because when I eat it I think of my great grandma, who is 90 years old. I hear she used to bake the best desserts ever! I love HER!!!!!! SO MUCH!!!
Making this pie, leads me to question, what place in the world is known to grow lemons? Also, how many lemons are used per day around the globe? What place in the world did lemon meringue pie get invented in?”
Cora, also in Grade 5, also shares a love for baking:
The best thing that I ever ate would probably have to be a cherry turnover that I made myself. When you sink your teeth into the crispy, but well-made crust mixed with a tangy cherry filling, my eyes flutter with extraordinary feeling on my tongue. I savor every bite slowly and carefully not to get the crust stuck up your teeth because it is extraordinarily hard to get out. When you see, and smell the fantastic treat your mouth explodes with saliva, just to taste the extraordinary extravaganza. When you sink your teeth into the soft, crispy and warm crust you’re mouth explodes with tangy oozing cherry and soft sugary crust, I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS BAKED TREAT!
When you make something, there is an instant feeling of accomplishment and joy, no matter what it is. It is important for everyone’s mental health to find ways to share special moments with people. I want to create these moments for my students, like you would for a family, through exploring food together.
Here’s Rayah talking about her mom’s lasagna,
“My mom makes the absolute best lasagna in the whole entire world. The creamy cheese melts in my mouth as I swallow it. When I take my first bite my whole entire mouth starts watering. I put the pasta strips in my mouth and it feels fantastic as it warms up my body when the pasta goes down my throat. The olives on the side were so juicy and delightful. They went with the lasagna perfectly. As I take the second bite I feel like I am dreaming. I tried pinching myself, I wasn’t sleeping. Before I knew it, I was already done. With every meal my mom makes, it is always flavoured with a lot of garlic and some salt. Sometimes my mom and I even put a pinch of paprika and a little bit of cumin in her dishes. My dad always secretly puts more salt, because he likes salt! When me and my mom make lasagna together, we have the best time. We listen to music and always taste the food as we go. One time when I was shredding the cheese, my mom’s favourite song came on and we quickly started dancing and the cheese went all over the floor and we cracked up laughing. Food brings people together”. By Rayah.
We asked a local restaurant in Airdrie called Ferraro Artisan Pizza and Pasta to help us share a special experience with food. Nyla and Emanuel Ferraro agreed to come and created a pasta/tiramisu workshop with us. The experience proved to be very special. We had moms come in and share the afternoon with us. The students were full of all kinds of emotions. The room was filled with the “oohs” and “ahhs”, emotions you would expect from this kind of occasion. The excitement of “we made this”, made the room feel so electric! We were a part of something great.
“People who love to eat are always the best people” Julia Child.
In the first station students are encouraged to research what kind of foods they want on their food truck menu. Students seem to love reading the recipe books and finding healthy items for their trucks. It is a great way to get kids reading along with conducting research while they do it.
Station 2: Food as an ART MEDIUM – how can we find ways to use food as art?
Presenting food is an art form. Chefs spend a lot of time and energy “plating the food”. STEAM Team kids thought that one way to think about art and food was to get students to bring in their old Halloween candy so we can make food art out of it! Students wanted to find ways to tell stories with their food as an art. So, some students made Imovie video clips and slow motion videos telling the story of how healthy food should always win over unhealthy food. Students created veggie buddies out of up-cycle materials found in the lab to remind others how important healthy food is.
STEAM students wanted to make art with pancake mix. So, I bought the mix, the dye and the STEAM kids went to town! The pancake art has been a delight for all involved. This station is a great place to tinker and play with food as an art form. Also, it helps to reinforce; What is healthy? by using the arts.
Station 3: Making a chef apron
With a growing industry of tech fashion, my colleague Jen Hummel and I are trying to find ways to integrate sewing into all the Design Challenges to give students the opportunity to learn how to sew. Jen Hummel is teaching the STEAM students how to sew on a sewing machine in our STEAM Team lunch meetings. We wanted to give students more opportunities to learn how to sew on a sewing machine. During the STEAM time, younger students – grades 1-3 are learning how to trace patterns, tracing food patterns and then hand sew them on the aprons. Grades 4 – 6 are given the opportunity to use the sewing machines to make an apron that would suit their food trucks brand.
Station 4: Testing our palates
Two grade 5 STEAM Team members wanted to explore the idea of testing our palates. Alex and Summer wanted to test students to see if they could figure out flavours by smelling and tasting them with a blindfold on. These two bright girls wanted students to think about the difference between sweet vs. salty flavours, mild vs bitter flavours, and then analyze where these flavours hit geographically on your tongue. Some items included: warhead candies, ginger, coffee beans, garlic, lemons and basil. STEAM students also wanted to have a tasting station, so each class could try out new flavours and food. One activity at the station was to make a batch of smoothies and then at the end of the STEAM class, the students had to guess what’s in the smoothie. After the smoothie tasting, students discussed about some of the fruit in the smoothie and think about some cultural significance and nutritional values of the different fruits. Another tasting activity was to get students to follow a recipe to make pumpkin turnovers with the pumpkin puree they made from the pumpkins we carved from Halloween. Tasting and learning about flavors teaches us to learn how to explore our food.
Station 5: Biochemistry of Food
Food is fascinating at a molecular level. This station examines the chemistry of food. When making the pizza dough students had to think about the breakdown of the ingredients and what is happening when the ingredients are mixed together. As they watched the yeast react to the warm water and sugar, they quickly learned that a CO2 gas has been formed, and sugar “monsters” are emitting this gas into the solution. ** Yeast picture. Thinking about the chemistry of food while cooking is exactly what STEAM is all about. How can we get students to think critically about what they are eating? Students use the microscopes to see if they can make out the molecules that make up certain foods like a Cheerio, or even looking at the plants from our tower garden. The “I’m not eating that” Let’sTalk Science UofC Science outreach program kit helped to relook at the amount of sugar that is in a lot of the food we eat. Students are diluting ketchup and straining pea mush to analyze what is in their food. This station will hopefully reinstate the importance of looking and thinking about what’s in our food.
Website for Let’s Talk Science – https://outreach.letstalkscience.ca/ucalgary.html
3. Make a prototype/test the prototype to help solve the problem.
Station 6 and 7: Create a business with: a brand, an advertisement and a truck.
The final two stations for this food challenge is to bring all these ideas together into a Food Truck brand. Students are asked to come up with a business name, ideas for their food theme and create a moveable model of a food truck. Students came up with so many unique designs. One of the groups thought of making a food truck to help promote bee security by making a food truck selling recipes with honey to promote healthy bee habitats. Students showed all kinds of ways to approach this prototyping step. Some students are thinking of ways to make their truck to fit over a Lego Mindstorms robot and then they will code it using the Lego Mindstorms website. Students also explored Tinker Cad by Autodesk to make 3D design models to build their own 3D items for their truck.
Younger students communicated what they thought was important for their food truck designs with their STEAM leaders. Then these younger students made foldable food trucks decorating it according to the design colours they thought would be good for their trucks. Older kids are branding their trucks by using Adobe Spark. Students made a one page flyer to explain about their brand through the colours, the menu items and the pictures they choose. One group called their truck “Lamb Mam” to try to encourage people to try new foods like lamb and eat ethical red meat. This group researched what kind of meat was most ethical and decided it was lamb. The UK news agency Independent suggests that “lamb is the most ethical meat to eat”. They showed me the article they found, “sheep fatten up nicely by simply foraging in fields. They’re also traditionally grazed on land that doesn’t have much other agricultural use – such as poor quality hillsides – which means it also makes economic sense to allow them to roam free”. By students thinking about how the food they eat ends up on their plate, helps us all to think about the importance of, “what’s our food’s story?”.
Adobe spark – https://spark.adobe.com
A great article to help with student’s menu prototypes was an article from the HuffPost which suggests that 1/3 rd of American kids are overweight. In this website, you visually compare the difference in lunches around the world, comparing the colours on the plates. The American’s lunch with fried “popcorn” chicken, mashed potatoes, peas, fruit cup and a chocolate chip cookie. Vs countries like Brazil (categorized as a Lower Econmically Developed country), has a more balanced lunch with – pork with mixed veggies, black beans and rice, salad, bread and baked plantains. It is surprising to think about what we accept as food. Many items in kids lunches have minimal nutritional value. We need to relook at how we are feeding our kids!
4. Get advice from “critical friends” to help your prototype to be better.
The next step in the Design Cycle is to get advice from people who can give you constructive feedback to help make your prototypes better. So, to help us with this process we invited some Grade 10 innovation and Design students from Chestermere High School to come help us. Time is allotted in their schedule to work on their passions in innovation and design. We invited these students to come eat our pizza so we could practice our cooking skills. The grade 5s made homemade pizza and Alex a grade 5 STEAM girl made homemade tiramisu from scratch. We served our pizza with fresh basil grown from our tower garden. A true garden to table experience.
When we asked the grade 10s for feedback on our cooking, they said the pizza and tiramisu was perfect – so it will be hard to improve upon this. However, the grade 5 students got a lot of feedback from each other while cooking in the foods room. Real authentic learning. When there is true engagement, students are essentially happy. Here were some of the comments I overheard, “we learned how to make the dough elastic-like”, “I learned to practice how to put the pizza in the oven so it didn’t topple over”, “I learned the temperature of the water matters when making dough”, “I learned that when making Gluten Free food, people often use rice flour”, “I learned that you need to put flour under the dough to make sure the pizza moves off the peeler correctly”.
The real purpose of the grade 10s coming were to help us learn more about how to incorporate sustainable practices into our designs. The grade 5s shared their food truck ideas with the grade 10s. Grade 10s asked questions to help the grade 5s clarify their business brand. The grade 10s also asked questions about where the food would come from – questions that linked to the grade 10 social studies theme of Globalization. As the future of farming is a growing concern in North America. As the average age of farmers increases, the number of individuals entering the farming occupation decreases, and the global population dramatically increases causing a higher demand for food produced annually. Through this challenge, we want students to become more informed about the global concern for food production and sourcing. The grade 10s can help us provide new insights into these overarching themes of Globalization and help the grade 5s consider how to be more sustainable and reduce their own carbon footprint.
5. Use the advice from the critical friends to make the prototype the best it can be.
The next step in the Design Cycle is to communicate the prototypes. The grade 5s are going to pitch their Food Truck business plans to the grade 10s in a Dragon’s Den setting. By this time, the grade 10s will have created their own sustainable cities. The grade 5s are going to pitch to the grade 10s to see if the grade 10s would want to invest in their food trucks for their sustainable cities. The grade 5s are going to have to think about how to have sustainable innovations and how healthy their businesses are to entice these grades 10s to invest. Each group will be challenged to think critically about what it means to be healthy and sustainable.
Stay tuned to see what happens in the new year with all these amazing student innovations.