Classroom Fruit Salad

Classroom Fruit Salad

I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I read the parents’ bulletin board at Scarlett’s school and saw that one of the upcoming classroom activities was the kid’s making fruit salad. I instantly asked if I could join the event. Why not, right? I  love fruit. I love hanging around Scarlett. And, oh yea, a friend and I have a food blog. I knew that they occassionaly involved the kids in special cooking projects to help them illustrate different letters of the alphabet. During the letter “N” week I’d heard the kids made nachos, so I didn’t want to miss another great cooking opportunity. In addition, fruit salad is always a good dish to make with kids. However, in case any one is listening, I’m still not over missing nacho day. I’m just saying.

On fruit salad day, both Scarlett and I were excited. I loved having the opportunity to be in her class to see her three warm and loving teachers doing what they do best and Scarlett was pumped to “work” on her blog in front of all her friends. In fact, once we got underway, I noticed she was pretty assertive–telling the other kids how to do things.  From the moment I entered the room, the excitement was palpable. The kids knew something special was happening and a few were even interested in my presence. Charlotte stuck close to me and was intriqued by my camera. I told her she could be my assistant and she seemed to like that. Before the fruit arrived, Erin thought it would be a really good idea to get a still life of her toy. How could I argue?

When you have classmates whose parents own a produce business at the Ontario Food Terminal, it’s not just fruit salad day. It’s fruit salad for the next 100 days of your life day. Lauren and Angelo’s dad delivered so much fresh fruit to the classroom, it was overwhelming. Not to mention, it was the best looking fruit you’d ever seen. He showed me a photo of a blueberry that was the size of toonie, part of a delivery he’d made a day earlier. There were crates, and crates and crates of oranges, strawberries, grapes and melon. I swear there was enough to stock the local Loblaws. I was pretty sure we were making fruit salad until Scarlett was of legal drinking age.

In the classroom, there are activity stations where the kids do projects and crafts that are related to the letter of the week. When I asked Miss Teresa and Miss Karen what they accomplish with these cooking activities they explained “kids love to cook.” But what is the “lesson” in this project? Miss Karen said it “teaches children to work cooperatively, models healthy eating habits and encourages the kids to experiment with new tastes and textures. Plus, it’s great for fine motor skills.” Both teachers also noted that kids like responsiblity. However, it’s important to keep it age appropriate so they don’t end up feeling let down by their inability to manage the task. According to Miss Teresa, it’s also important to “point out the changes during the cooking process.” When you’re at home, let them sprinkle the cheese on the pizza and then turn on the oven light so they can see it melt. But the best part for the teachers is what they learn from the kids. “I’ll think its best to slice something one way and a child will show me something I haven’t thought of. They’re point of view is so fresh,” says Teresa.

At the salad station, there were six chairs and cutting boards. The kids would rotate in groups until everyone had a turn. At the end of the day, their delicious creations would be the classes snack. I just wanted to survive the peeling, slicing and chopping process. Have you ever been in a classroom of  24 kids? It’s not a spa, people.

The pre-schoolers couldn’t wait to get started. The first group got the extra duty of washing all the fruit. In single file, led by Scarlett (who happened to be the leader that week), they gamely carried it all to the kitchen.

Once there, Miss Christy allowed each child a turn at the sink. Miraculously, no one got wet. I need this woman to manage things at my house. Scarlett just looks at the sink and gets soaked.

Afterwards, we all headed back into the classroom to start our salads. Miss Karen allowed the kids to select what fruit they wanted to work on. From peeling oranges to slicing strawberries and grapes, they each quietly went to work, concentrating heavily on their task.

Each child had their own way of doing things. Some were very organized, lining up their peels neetly on their cutting boards, while others vibrantly hacked away at the fruit’s flesh. Big pieces. Little pieces. It didn’t matter. Their enthusiasm was so contatgious it made me lust after the salads as if I knew they’d be the best I’d ever eat.

They didn’t want to stop either. They’d cut….

slice….

cut some more…

and some would even sample.

The children in the other areas of the room couldn’t wait to have their turn. They’d march over, eager to earn a spot at the table. Once they did, they’d dive into the task. I was amazed (and pleased) to see how few needed help. They all seemed to have some “experience” in the kitchen and they were keen to show their skills and contribute to the days feast.

The three bowls full of the final products were a mish-mash of different cuts, sizes and textures, but they were all perfect.

After assisting Miss Christy with the post-salad-washing-hands-crush at the sink, I made a quiet exit. Other activities were on the agenda and snack was some time away. When I returned to collect Scarlett I asked her how the fruit salad tasted? She said, with a big, sparkling smile,  “Oh Mommy, it was the best.” I knew it would be.

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3 Comments

  1. karen ioi
    June 02, 00:29 Reply

    I love your account of our fruit salad project,,,,,,soooo sorry about the nachos! We loved sharing our day with you! Karen

  2. karen ioi
    June 02, 00:31 Reply

    Oops, please excuse the punctuation (time to get some glasses!)

  3. Terry Sawyer
    September 08, 11:05 Reply

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this post!

    It’s the little changes that produce the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!

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