New Year’s Resolutionswpmanager
Happy New Year from TastEd! This is the season of diet resolutions. As individuals, many of us are resolving to eat less of this or that food. But what if some of that spirit of change could be applied in a more positive and social way to helping children learn about food in schools? The word resolution does not just apply to giving up chocolate. It can also mean ‘the act of solving a problem’. In this context, it was fascinating to interview Einar Risvik, from the Norwegian Tasting School, who sees food education as a tool that can solve many problems at once. Einar’s organisation trains teachers to use food education as a way of helping children engage better with school across the board, from engaging children with curriculum to helping with behaviour.
Einar, tell us about the NorwegianTasting School.
The Norwegian Tasting School is the Norwegian hub of Sapere (about which you can read in our December post). The responsible organization in Norway is the Norwegian Cultural Heritage Foundation, and we think this is very appropriate as we see food as the most important feature of culture in any nation. Our tasting school is a “train the trainers” program, supported by two national, non-profit foundations from banking and insurance. As it is very difficult to get into the curriculum in the schools with specific educational tools, our approach has been to provide the teachers in Food and Health with tools for their continuing education, but it will be up to the individual teacher how this is utilized. It is still too early to believe that we will be able to get Sapere as a method into the school curriculum right away.
The learning goals for Norwegian children are currently being revised and new transverse goals are being added, related to democracy, citizenship, sustainability, health and living in a complex world. We believe that food must play a significant role in this and have therefore included this as a focus for Sapere in Norway. In the kindergartens this is easier as food already has been introduced as a transverse tool for all learning.
What are your goals in teaching about food and food culture in schools, and why is food such a useful educational tool?
Food is a useful educational tool in kindergarten and schools because there is no prerequisite for cognitive or behavioural skills. We all eat. Food provides a platform for learning where all children can participate, therefore this will contribute to social cohesion and reduce tensions. We know that teaching children about food via sensory education encourages them to eat a wider variety of fruit and vegetables, but our research also shows that food education results in behavioural change and better grades.
Can you explain a little more about how food education results in behavioural change and better grades?
Learning how to learn means that you practice mechanisms or procedures of a general nature possible to transfer between learning situations. Take behavioural skills for instance. We know that to learn a practical skill you need to practice. It is not possible to learn to bike without actual biking. The learning experience you get can later be used when you want to learn new skills. But not all children can learn to bike – for example, being in a wheelchair may be obstructive. So it is important to find learning situations where all children have equal opportunities. Food as a learning device is non-obstructive for children with all types of impairment.
Another learning mechanism it’s possible to transfer between learning situations is when you learn how to conceptualise. Food is a very tangible theme where concepts easily are illustrated, for example using numbers and quantities, shapes and formats, and transformations.
Food may also be used to learn languages, culture, traditions and politics.
Do you teach the Sapere method in both Primary and Secondary schools in Norway?
Sapere is not a formal part of the curriculum in Norway, it is up to the individual teacher to introduce elements of the method.
So by training teachers in the Sapere method you are giving them an additional set of skills that they may use when deciding how best to teach the curriculum?
And how is this type of teaching received by children and parents?
Both teachers and children find the Sapere method an engaging, enjoyable and inclusive
way to learn. But sometimes when we manage to change things in school, parents do not necessarily follow suit because they are not aware of the changes. This is a hurdle
in making a permanent change, therefore we have just published a new book (the title translates as ‘Picky Children’ or maybe ‘Picky Eating’) which is focused towards parents as well as schools and kindergarten. We are already selling well, after one week, so it looks promising.
How is the Sapere method being received by the education system?
The educational system as a system does not want interference with its development of curriculum for schools. The novel curriculum for Food and Health is currently being revised, but the focus is still on cognitive learning goals in nutrition and not on the use of our senses as a tool for extended learning.
So if the Norwegian curriculum is based on goals, not teaching methods, how does sensory education fit in?
We see an increasing interest from teachers, where the understanding of learning and teaching as a more interactive and complex process is in focus. This gives hope.