Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jamie Oliver - educator!

Jamie Oliver, the enthusiastic TV chef is a man on a mission. He is on a crusade to encourage young people to eat healthy food. After trying to improve UK school dinners he is now in the heart of the US, the centre of fast foods eating, trying to encourage schools to provide healthy school dinners.

I just happened to switch on to watching Jamie Oliver last night and it was an enlightening experience.
Jamie had evidently upset a town in Virginia but suggesting that the local were eating unhealthily. I think he must have inferred that they were eating the wrong foods and putting their lives,and the lives of their children, at risk.All to do with obesity. Pretty brave for a pom ,and a cockney at that, telling the Americans how to eat!

In the programme Jamie was working in an elementary school for a week to see if he could tempt the students with some healthy food.

I enjoyed the programme for two reasons.One was an opportunity to look into elementary classrooms and, of course, the food eating experiment. As for the classrooms over the years I have visited thousand of rooms and feel I am a pretty good judge of what makes a child-centred learning environment. All I can say that if NZ is determined to follow the American idea of standardized testing and standards it wasn't a good advertisement for inspiring education. Any New Zealand junior classroom would look like paradise in comparison but maybe I am biased. Standardised teaching and little to see of students 'voice' and authentic inquiry work. All bland like their school meals.

But that wasn't what the programme was all about.

Jamie's first effort to provide his idea of healthy food was a giant flop. All the young students lined up to empty most of his food into the bin.

Jamie was stunned. Evidently the UK primary kids had enjoyed the variety he offered.

Jamie's next move was to work with some young six year olds to show them how a chicken can be cut into various parts and then he , with a kitchen whiz, minced up all the body , bones, and skin ( also a few other ingredients) and then made the results into chicken nuggets. All the way through he emphasized that what he was using was all the left over bits. The kids were impressed with Jamie's lesson ( he was using a big knife to cut up the chicken) but when he cooked up the off cuts as patties he asked the children if they would like to eat them. To his surprise ,and disappointment, they all were enthusiastic about the opportunity. Evidently a similar experiment in the UK turned the kids off such processed food!

Undaunted he decided to see how much the children new about common vegetables. He brought into a junior room a collection of supermarket fresh vegetables. I guess he was after their 'prior knowledge'. Well the results surprised him as it did myself. I am aware modern children seem to have lost touch about the realities of where their food comes from but the young Americans had no idea at all .Couldn't recognise tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower -any of the vegetables Jamie showed them.

When the young students were shown pictures of common fast foods they all knew every possible offering! Real experts in this area.

At the end of the week, as the result of the teacher setting up a display of vegetables, the children when 'tested' by Jamie, could recognise them all.

Another big experiment involved parents and their children. Using a big tarpaulin he put in a weeks worth of chocolate milk, all the school processed food, and all the fat involved- this shocked the parents who expressed a change of heart about school meals. Real education.

With his last attempt to provide healthy school meals Jamie provided another school meal and this time he had more success gaining permission from the school principal and the superintendent to continue with the experiment - but he had to keep an eye on expenses!

Obesity is a real problem worldwide and Jamie is working against a populist tide.
Jamie also worked with one family that all seemed to have serious weight problems. He arranged for them all to visit a doctor for a check up and they all learned the possible future dire scenarios for their health - including diabetes.

This family have agreed to try to change their eating habits and Jamie is teaching the fourteen year old overweight boy how to cook and, in the process, lose weight nad feel better for it.

Next week he is going to try to change high school students eating habits - one thing he learnt was that the school dinner providers see french fries as vegetables!

Finding out about food knowledge and preferences and how much fast food is eaten by children in our classes would make a great integrated authentic study? I am aware that many children have lost any real knowledge of their natural world but are they losing knowledge about where their food comes from?

Worth a study?
Maybe more important than National Standards as I would bet the children in the so called 'achievement tail' ( really a socio economic tail) eat more than their fair share of fast food?


Alison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alison said...

WAY more important than National Standards!! I saw the programme too. Thank goodness for Jamie, and as he is getting a bit of publicity, perhaps there will be positive spinoffs. I hope so but am not holding my breath. So many students rarely eat a homecooked meal and eat rubbish at school. Wouldn't it be great for them to grow their own veges at school and learn to cook a simple meal? The Important People have no understanding of such things, in their quest to have every child become a university professor. Incidentally, in France, where the students eat a four course lunch at the school cafeteria, they function well in the afternoons. Could good food, as opposed to National Standards, be the pathway to high achievement? (Sorry about the previous post - typo!)

Eddie said...

It's true, though, some Americans are eating unhealthily and it's good that Jamie used his ability to cook really good food into letting these people know how much danger they're putting their bodies into.

Michelle said...

Excellent post. I have long respected Jamie Oliver's techniques and his ability to reach an audience. I even learn a lot from Jamie Oliver. I use his strategies and his example (ability to mobilize) when I teach parliamentary debate. A simple and good meal: a lesson or two for an entire generation.

Bruce said...

Thanks for the comments.Jamie showed that seeing is believing - not just being told or reading about something.Real experiential learning.