Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Bug Chef Expands Our Thinking: Will he expand yours?

It truly does take a village to teach our students, and for anyone who hasn't been in a classroom for a few years, inviting visitors to talk to our students no longer requires their physical presence in the room.

This post is dedicated to some of our takeaways from the Bug Chef, who spoke to us from Seattle, Washington.

Although edible insects are a new concept for many to consider, Chef Gordon has been eating and cooking with bugs for over 20 years, and next year will mark the anniversary of his first Eat-A-Bug cookbook. His goal is to teach others to think differently about insects and what you're eating in general; people have strong feelings about what is "food", and so learning about the value of eating insects expands people's thinking.

He credits his parents with taking him to different restaurants when he was younger, and his current favorite insect is the waxworm. "Kind of like a grape in sweetness, but when you bake them, they taste more like pistachio nuts." See? Just like that he expands your concept of what constitutes "food".

Rationale for eating bugs:
The UNFAO (United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization) anticipates a population increase of nearly 2 billion by the year 2050, which means a whole lot more food to produce and a lot less space to do so. 80% of the world's cultures currently eat insects on a regular basis, so Americans are the odd ones out. Context and culture obviously play a huge role in eating norms. Flying fish eggs, anyone? (normal in Japan) Tarantulas? (the norm in Cambodia) Ants as anti-aging foods? (China)

Acquiring insects:
One of our students' questions was how people actually get insects? They are expensive to purchase online, as we have learned, so how do people in other countries afford them?
Some people farm insects, such as crickets and mealworms, which is considered more sustainable, but these tend to be in countries where eating insects is still a novelty. (like the USA) There are even pollutant-free crickets for those so inclined, although most of the farmed insects seem to be organic. Most insects are wild-harvested, which means people (kids included!) simply go out and catch their insects. We learned that some students bring their cricket catch to school in Thailand, where they are sauteed en masse for lunch. You bring 'em and the school cook will make 'em tasty. Talk about a fresh catch. Wild-harvested insects are the greater norm, but there is a potential for over-harvesting, and runs the risk of not being sustainable, given the population surges ahead.

(Mealworms, by the way, are not worms, but baby beetles.)

Insects for Americans (as an example), or others who are not accustomed to eating insects on a regular basis, can be purchased and eaten in multiple forms. Insect powders, such as those from crickets and mealworms can be easily included in milkshakes, smoothies, brownies, muffins, salads, etc. Even pasta can include high amounts of protein from cricket flour, which is one of its draws. Other products like earthworm jerky, can also contain protein. Many insects have high levels of proteins, vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants, so it might behoove us to reconsider our fears of "icky bugs".
Chef Gordon, btw, prefers whole insects and would rather people eat them in a near natural state of wholeness in order to realize that they actually taste good. From a man who has won a gold frying pan in a cooking competition, that sounds like sage advice.

As mentioned above, Chef Gordon prefers eating whole bugs, but does suggest cooking them to ensure safety. There are parasites and possible diseases, but for the most part, insects are safe to eat. Even scorpion venom he says, is made primarily of proteins, so when they are cooked (if the poison gland is not cut off), the proteins which cause allergic reactions are denatured in the cooking process, leaving nothing to worry about. They actually have "tasty white meat". So there you go. No excuses to give yet another "white meat" a try.

As far as career readiness? 
Imagine the new careers in the food industries! Farming, raising, marketing, and creating new snacks! Immigrants have brought new cuisines to our country since America was founded, so bringing in insect dishes isn't really so new if it's en vogue for 1.9 billion people in the world today.

As Chef Gordon says, Bug Appetit!

Showing us some flavored mealworms, a tasty snack! (he says
with no hint of irony)

More insect snacks. They are quite popular! 

Aptly named insect brand "Jump"....No ick factor here. 

Pasta made with cricket powder. 

Chef Gordon's Golden Frying Pan Award!

Here you can see our first use of Flipgrid for quick responses to his presentation. Using Flipgrid as a formative assessment provides immediate information for me to work with as I determine follow-up instruction, while easily integrating an authentic audience for their speaking.
                                       Click HERE to see the Flipgrid responses. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Crickets: The "Gateway Bug"

As we continue through our exploration of whether insects are the food of the future, of course our students harbored a mix of wonder and disgust about how insects actually taste. Although nowhere near the size, amount, or kind of insects that many people eat on a regular basis, we tried our hand at crickets today. A first for all of us, including myself and my partner in crime, Ms. Jimenez.

Have a look. And remember that, although we are having fun because it is a novelty (and a choice!) for us, it's not the case for many others in the world. Stay tuned for more!

Ms. Jimenez

Ms. Pillars

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Using video to synthesize learning

When working with high school students, especially those learning English, it's often a challenge to find authentic audiences. As many of you probably know, it's certainly a game-changer when it's not just the teacher who is looking at your work or listening to you speak. Recently, my students were tasked to create a one-minute video synthesis about what they have learned so far about Edible Insects. 

Students first wrote their scripts, together with a partner. Despite my love of having them to write (much to their chagrin!), the focus of my formative assessment relied on their spoken video synthesis.  During their writing process, though, I could easily ask clarifying questions and provoke their thinking--which in turn, provided additional layers of formative assessment.  

Students then reflected on what makes an interesting video, reflected on what they can add or do differently after watching each others' videos, and what they liked about their own videos. 

Check out the videos below to see how providing this "simple" formative assessment allowed students to express themselves and their learning in very different ways, while collaborating within a time limit. What is most exciting to me is how different each video turned out, a testament to the importance and value of choice and multi-format assessments. 

How can YOU tweak student assessments to include all four domains of speaking, reading, writing, and listening? And who could be your students' next authentic audience?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Are insects the food of the future? Or today?

A Valentine's Day treat: Bitty foods Chocolate Chirp Cookies,
made with cricket flour. 
I know it's been a month since the last blog post, but that doesn't mean we've been asleep. Quite the contrary! Let me just give you  a taste of what's been happening in class.

Each semester I get to write new units and curricula for our English Language Learners, and since many students are in my class multiple times, I'm constantly seeking new topics to tie our literacy skills together. This semester our focus is based on United Nations Sustainable Goal #2, Zero Hunger. We began by using excerpts from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization report on Future prospects for food and feed security, and Reading A-Z's Edible Insects as base texts, along with interactive transcripts from a handful of TED Talks, UNICEF resources, and help from folks who are raising insects for consumption.

As part of achieving this goal, students will be examining sustainable agriculture and foods, including edible insects! We will also be distinguishing between malnutrition and poor nutrition, and ways that insects might help (or not) alleviate these food challenges.

So far, it's been delicious fun, as students have not only begun researching, but have also gotten a taste of what I call "gateway bugs" :-). Foods like Bitty foods chocolate chirp cookies, which are made with cricket flour, and Hotlix candies have helped our students join the 80% of the world's cultures who eat insects!

(Shhhh...Don't tell them, but that sounds like they're almost #trendy.)

So stayed tuned to see some of their work as we continue our research and try a few projects to make our work even more memorable. As the Bug Chef says, "Bug Appetit"!  (Bet you can't watch without a grimace or two. My favorite part is between 3:30-4:30.)

Bitty Foods founder Megan Miller discusses whether insects are the 
future of food. What do you think?

Reaction when students realized what was in the Chocolate Chirp Cookies!

A little bit easier to think about were the insect candies.

Despite the smile, she later admitted she couldn't eat the insects...

My partner in crime, and Insect Santa for the day.
Which bug would you like to try?

We are emphasizing that eating bugs is not a gimmick,
and it seems like students are understanding that. We still
have more research to do, though!

These two dove right in--no hesitation, no qualms!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Don't Forget the Library!

One thing I love about teaching, and teaching language learners specifically, is the way I'm jolted out of complacency on a very frequent basis. Recently, it was the idea of knowing how to use the library in our school.

You see, elementary students benefit from loads of classes and "practice" using their media centers. They know how to look up books online, find books among the stacks, check out books themselves, re-shelve books, and are aware of the many different genres and categories of books available.  

But what about our older language learners, particularly secondary students, and to some extent, middle schoolers, new to the US? Do we know where the gaps lie in their media center experiences? Many students may never have had access to a library in their country or former school, and many more may never used an online search system. When we expect students to go to the library and check out books, they can be overwhelmed. 

It is difficult to navigate any new library in another language, and it's certainly intimidating to ask a librarian for help. One of the best things we did this year was join forces with our media specialist/ librarian, Rose Pate. She presented our newest language learners with a mission, followed by a scavenger hunt to get them up and moving. Here's how:

1) The Mission: Our librarian posed the following mission: 
There is a small village school in Central America with no library. A wealthy donor gives the school a library! BUT...
When the boxes arrive, there are hundreds of books on all topics. No one can find the books they need! What to do?
You group: Make a plan for how to organize all the books so everyone can find what they need.
Quick! You only have five minutes!

2) As students deciphered the mission and brainstormed plans, we could assess their familiarity with a library, systems of organization, and different book genres. They were given 5 minutes, which, based on their work, extended to more like 9 minutes, since they were using the time.

3) Students then shared their ideas orally with the class.

4) More formal definitions were explained, of terms like library, fiction, nonfiction, and other various genres.

5) Next, Mrs. Pate explained what each number in the "call number" on a book represented. Even though that in-depth information might not be the most accessible for a newcomer, our language learners are on a spectrum of readiness---and it's just such cool information!
 *Note: A Home on the Field is about our very own hometown and soccer team!

6) After some short and visual descriptions, students were introduced to the online system for finding books, information, and resources.

7) Lastly, students were tasked with finding different books of different genres and topics, requiring them to find resources online, then hunt them down in the stacks. Partners and small groups scaffolded the adventure and made it all the more fun.

8) Ultimately, students shared what they learned, along with information about some of the books they found.

In all, this activity took about 60 minutes (plus prep time for our librarian---Mrs. Pate took care of all the details for us--THANK YOU!), and it was more than worth the time. College and career ready also means being able to navigate media centers with books, computers, and other sources of information. What are you doing to make sure this happens with your language learners? 

Other ideas to make your media center more language learner friendly? 
1) Display popular books, or student-reviewed books in different genres so there is more exposure to new ideas.
2) Invest in at least a handful of books in the languages of your students. When possible, ask the students themselves to help you choose. 
3) Clearly label different categories, genres, topics--however your center is arranged, make sure there are signs, preferably with visuals.
4) Encourage your media specialist to hold orientations with students, lead classes on different topics, and provide opportunities for him/ her to partner with your students, even in small ways. The media center should be a place of comfort and inspiration and we want students to feel comfortable asking questions!
5) When possible, seek books for and with your students according to their interests. Dip their proverbial toes in the media center waters and maybe, (just maybe!) that planted seed of curiosity will blossom before you know it!