Teacher, television host, and best selling children’s author Alice Zaslavsky has derived a fresh approach to getting kids to eat their vegetables, creating a free digital program for Grade 3 to 6 students that flips food education on its head.
The project, entitled Phenomenom, is comprised of 25 episodes, 50 downloadable resources and an interactive website. The first of its kind, Phenomenom has been funded by Hort Innovation, the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture, using the vegetable research and development levy, and contributions from the Australian Government. “Phenomenom is a huge leap in the right direction,” says Alice. “I’d like to think that a movement is sprouting. A shift in societal attitudes towards vegetables – and education – propelled forward by the kids themselves.”
A mix of live action and animation, Phenomenom transports kids from classrooms onto tall ships, deep inside worm farms, and back out through interstellar wormholes. “The best thing that we did is cast curious, sparky, kids,” Alice explains. “Then we followed them around with cameras as they learned about veggies for themselves. Even if they started at a point where they hated all vegetables, by the end, they were smelling ingredients and touching and tasting. That was so thrilling for me to witness because the whole point is to meet kids wherever they are… we’ve already done that with at least six.”
Along the way, the “super natural learners” meet illustrious guests such as MasterChef Australia judge George Calombaris, River Cottage Australia host Paul West, AFL champion Chris Judd, Mars One astronaut candidate Dianne McGrath, Olympic athlete Morgan Mitchell, and a host of experts across nutrition, psychology, and native foods.
The series is complemented by a set of 50 curriculum-aligned classroom resources. Combining the history of cuisine and agriculture with lessons about art, maths and science, the emphasis is always on exploration, cooperation, tactile experience and taste. Alice hopes that Phenomenom will not only help connect students with fresh food, but also encourage an appetite for learning.
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