How can you teach the Great Fire of London through Food Education?
The idea that food education is important and that it should be about exploration and finding joy in healthy food is not a controversial one. However, there’s one big barrier that comes up over and over again when we speak to teachers, and that’s time! Teachers tell us it’s hard to find as much time as they would like for food education given all the other things on the timetable: English, maths, history, geography, science, and the rest.
The core TastEd lessons address are designed to be a very simple way to deliver the statutory national curriculum on Cooking and Nutrition (which falls under Design and Technology) as well as to satisfy the PSHE requirements on children learning about healthy diets.
Pudding Lane was where the butchers of London would transport offal meat to be taken away by barges on the river Thames. Originally the street was called Offal Pudding Lane.
Teachers have told us that they find our lesson plans and PowerPoints the simplest way they have come across to deliver this requirement within the national curriculum, given that our method does not require a kitchen or any specialist equipment to deliver.
But another way to do TastEd is to use it as a way of learning about other subjects such as History, Geography and Science. The amazing thing about food as a subject is that it relates to every other subject and it can also be a way to engage reluctant learners. At Washingborough Academy in Lincolnshire, head teacher Jason O’Rourke has shown that food doesn’t always have to be discussed during ‘cooking and nutrition’ lessons. It can also be woven into every other element of the school day, from Maths (subdivide an apple into eight equal pieces) to Art (paint a still life of pumpkins).
TastEd has created a series of topic-based lessons in which sensory food education can be used as a way to deliver non-food curriculum in an exciting way (while also satisfying some of the D & T requirements on Cooking and Nutrition). These lessons have been developed in conjunction with teachers at the University of Cambridge Primary School and St Matthews primary school and have already received great feedback from teachers and children.
The topics covered so far include: Tudor history, the food of ancient Rome, the Great Fire of London, the food of refugees (human Geography), the 1960s (food and Ringo Starr of The Beatles), the journey of spice (Geography) and edible foods that have defense mechanisms (Evolution).
A loaf of bread that found by archaeologists at Pompeii. It was carbonized by the high temperatures of the volcanic ash from Vesuvius.
How can you teach the Great Fire of London through food? The Fire started in 1666, in Pudding Lane, but it surprises many people to learn that there were no pudding shops in Pudding Lane! In the seventeenth-century, the word ‘pudding’ sometimes meant offal: meats such as kidneys, liver, tripe and heart, this is what was sold in Pudding Lane and how it got its name. This lesson (aimed at Years 1 and 2) looks at the many street names in London which had names associated with food and gives children the chance to come up with their own street names based on vegetables: Pea Plaza, Radish Row! At the end of the lesson, children have the chance to taste some of the foods mentioned in Samuel Pepys’s diary: radish, peas (sugarsnaps) and grapes.
What about food and ancient Rome? When Vesuvius erupted in Pompeii it carbonised the food people ate, so we know that the people of Pompeii ate broad beans, chickpeas, lentils, onions, garlic, figs, olives, dates, oats, pears and grapes. This lesson gives children in year 5 or 6 the chance to imagine being archaeologists and to look at different forms of evidence that historians might use to uncover the nutrition of populations in the past. At the end of the lesson, children are given the chance to try pomegranate, olives and chickpeas – all Roman foods.
Food can also be a beautifully accessible way to explore the concept of evolution in Science. Many plants which are safe to eat have evolved to smell and taste very strong. Why? This is a cooking lesson called ‘The Don’t Eat Me Salad’ which looks at the way that certain plants have evolved defence mechanisms to stop themselves being eaten by animals (spiky skin, hard shells, bitter tastes). Tomatoes are one of the many plants that use phytochemicals as a chemical defence system to stop animals eating and destroying them; but humans have developed a taste for these delicious plants and the phytochemicals are part of what makes them so healthy. At the end of the lesson, children make a salad from tomatoes, garlic, cumin seeds, bitter chicory (or other bitter leaves) and coconut: all plants that have evolved with defence mechanisms but which are very good to eat.
Another lesson explores the 1960s through the diet of Ringo Starr. Ringo was a picky eater as a child and as an adult when he went to India with The Beatles, he brought a whole suitcase full of baked beans because he was worried he wouldn’t be able to eat Indian food. However, eating habits change and Ringo Starr is now a big fan of broccoli, blueberries and other fruits and vegetables. This lesson is an exploration of the social history of the 1960s but also a chance for children to explore the way their own tastes can change for the better.
Do let us know if you have other ideas for topic-based TastEd lessons. If you know a school that might be interested in delivering sensory food education, please let them know they can access all the TastEd resources, including special topic based lessons, for free, here or for more information they can email: email@example.com