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?