Connecting in Chaos
On my way to a Blind Taste Test lesson, I get a weird feeling in my stomach that I always get before doing these lessons. How will we connect? What do we have in common? Will the kids trust me?
Now, the Blind Taste Test can only be described one way: barely controlled chaos. It’s not the fault of the leaders, the lesson, or even me… it’s just a fact. Blindfolded anxious kids (although sometimes they have the blindfolds around their hair and are looking right at me) plus sticky produce (any tasty, self-respecting fruit or vegetable is sticky) equals mayhem. After we have put the blindfolds (rainbow tie-dyed bandanas) on the kids, before I get out the food, I always raise my hand and ask, “How many fingers am I holding up?” On this particular day, half the kids yelled, “TWO!” which was correct. For some reason when people can’t see, they talk louder.
“You’re not supposed to know,” I say.
I field the inevitable “Can we keep these blindfolds?” question. Then we go around the room and fix the blindfolds on the good “guessers” and make sure everyone understands that they are not supposed to be looking. Never a hundred percent on this.
I pass out the food. Cucumbers today.
“I can smell it,” someone says.
“I know what it is,” another person says.
“I love these,” they say.
“I hate these,” some say.
“Can I have some more?”
They ate it. They trusted me. I want to hug all of them.
I tell the kids to raise their hand if they know what it is. All hands go up, even the hands of those who didn’t eat theirs.
“On the count of three, whisper what you think it is,” I used to ask them to yell the answer. Live and learn.
Half the kids whisper, “Cucumbers” while half the kids yell “Cucumbers!” Like I said, never a hundred percent.
I pass out the next food, watermelon. I love giving them watermelon because most everyone likes it, and beneath their smiles, the juice escapes in a stream. Always fun to watch.
When they finish the watermelon and I assure them that I brought extra, and there is definitely enough for them each to have seconds, I ask them to just smell the next thing, an herb. I go around the room and have each person take a whiff of fresh mint.
“What’s an herb?”
“I know what this is,” someone says.
“Can I eat it?” another says.
“Is it gum?” they ask.
They really like smelling the mint. I tell them they can finally take their blindfolds off and look at the herb, a small bunch of stems and leaves.
“How do they make it?”
“Where does it grow?” they ask.
I ask the children if they want to mix the cucumber, watermelon, and mint into a salad. Not too many hands go up. The kids hit me with their best, you’re-crazy-lady faces.
“Can we just have more watermelon?” That’s code for don’t ruin the perfectly good watermelon with vegetables and leaves. Eventually, they realize I’m making the salad anyway. The kids rip up the mint leaves while I dump watermelon and cucumbers into a bowl. They take turns mixing. They love helping.
Most everyone tries it. That’s awesome. I pass out all my leftovers and
try to take a poll of what they thought from love it to hate it. By now, I have pretty much lost all of them. A few are always going through my bag to make sure that I am, in fact, out of food.
“How big is your farm?” Now it’s my farm.
“What else do you grow on your farm?”
“Do you have any pigs? I love pigs!”
“I hate pigs.”
I assure the children that I don’t own or live on the farm. I’m just allowed to help grow food and play in the dirt there. We don’t have any pigs, but we have some farm animals as pets.
“Don’t the pigs eat the vegetables?”
Time to go.
I ask the children “Who ate something new today?”
All hands go up. I thank them for listening to me and participating in my activity. They settle in to finishing their homework or playing some more. I give a wave and a smile on my way out the door.
“Can you come back tomorrow?”