Friday, October 03, 2008

You gonna eat that?

Food is a marvelous teaching device. I have three specific examples to illustrate this point. All three come from my church involvement.

When our daughter was in her middle school years, my husband and I agreed to teach Sunday School. No other teachers came forward, and since we wanted our daughter to have a good experience in Sunday School, we volunteered. So for two entire years, we taught every single Sunday. I took the lead in teaching, and my husband was the disciplinarian. Keeping 5th, 6th and 7th graders in line was far more challenging than teaching them.

I learned quickly that they respond well to food. I remember two wonderfully successful classes where the means to communicating the lesson involved food. On a particular Sunday, the basic lesson had to do with "gifts of the Spirit": see 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 for the full text.

I wanted to convey to each child that no matter what he or she might excel in, all their gifts blend together to the greater good. So, I passed around a bag of fruit. In the bag were individual pieces of fruit--apple, banana, grapes, peach, pear, orange, and lemon--only ONE of each. The bag passed from student to student around the circle. Predictably the lemon was left to last.

After each child had a piece of fruit, I asked what they could do with their fruit. Well, eat them, they all said, except the kid with the lemon. So, I then suggested we could do something for everyone if they would let me work with the fruit. I then began to peel and cut up the fruit, saving the lemon for last. I took the lemon, cut it in half then squeezed the juice over the entire cut-up fruit, now in a large bowl. Of course, I mixed it all together--and pronounced it FRUIT SALAD. Then, we all had a good size helping. I think the "different gifts" got through.

Another time, the message was focused on how important it is for us to care for the poor. That Sunday, we brought all the items for breakfast along: small cereal boxes, milk, orange juice, and bananas. Then we gave each child an envelope containing play money. We had divided the class into a mini-world. Arbitrarily, we had one child be rich, several children be "middle-class" and one child be poor.

We had put prices on each of the food items. The "rich" child could buy ALL the items, the "middle-class" children could buy one or another of the items. The "poor" child did not have enough to buy anything. He was crushed. So, with a little prompting, the children figured out that if they redistributed their money, even the "poor" child could buy breakfast.

The final food lesson came out of a different setting. I was the stewardship chair for our church's annual giving program. Now, if there's one thing I HATE to do it's ask for money. I just have a really hard time. But I did light upon a way to illustrate the need to give. When I gave my main stewardship talk from the pulpit, I had ten apples lined up. I said--God gave me ten apples to use as I needed, and only asked that I return one apple to God--a tithe. So, I put 4 apples aside to pay for my house, I put one aside to buy a car, I put another 2 aside to buy clothing, I put 2 aside for food. Then I looked at the remaining apple. It was a beautiful nice shiny red apple. I turned it around in my hand, and then said--I will just take a small bite out of this apple. So I took one, then another, then another. Finally, I was left with just the apple core. Then I said--I don't have one apple left to give to God, so I will just give God this apple CORE. And then I sat down and stopped talking.

No other words were needed to convey the point.

Food--it's a great way to communicate a message.


NCmountainwoman said...

Great lessons...each one.

JeanMac said...


Beth said...

I enjoyed this very much. I expect those young people remember the lessons in a way they would not have without the objects. Objects and lessons that they use every day.

Anvilcloud said...

That's pretty darn creative. I still sort of remember my pastor giving an illustrated message from the pulpit when I was quite young. I even remember the catch phrase.

Mary C said...

Excellent concepts, Donna. Only gifted teachers like yourself would be creative enough to use food as a resource. Illustrations like this make lessons so much easier to remember.

Climenheise said...

Yesterday we began a conference at Providence ( called "Take and Eat" -- on the production and processing and consumption of food. Finished today.

For yesterday's evening meal we did a "world meal" -- 20 tables with six at a table. Tables 1 to 4 were "World One": everything they could eat and more, brought to their tables and served from the trolleys. Tables 5 to 14 were "World Two": rice and chicken, with a reasonable amount. Tables 15 to 18 were "World Three": Rice with some chickpeas cooked into it. Tables 19 and 20 received a small bowl with three cups of rice, some utensils, but no plates of their own. We carried the food out to tables five to 20, then rolled out the trolleys for the top four tables. The tables were scattered among each other, so that they were not numbered consecutively. There was no explanation. People drew a slip of paper from a bowl as they entered and sat at the number of table written on the slip.

People who didn't get were at first quite annoyed. Some of my students were the servers, and one of them did not want to go back in to serve more: she was upset by the unfair imbalance at the tables.

Then (as usually happens at such events) the people at tables one to four realized that they had everything, and started to carry it around. Soon every one had had more than enough, and could not finish all that there was.

It is a simple experiment that has been done quite often. I have done it with my class once before two years ago. I prepared a meal, had the class meet for lunch in the classroom, and replicated the event from last night on my own. But simple or not, it makes the point of how unbalanced food distribution is in our world. not the point of your blog, but a coincidence that we were doing this when you were posting on food.

Ruth said...

Great object lessons, especially the last one. I will have to bookmark this post.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Greetings on International Teachers' Day. I appreciate your passion for teaching so often shared in your blog.

Mary said...

Brilliant. You are very inspiring not only to us, but I'll bet those middle schoolers won't forget your lessons.

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