Using food in preschool projects

Julie and I were discussing the idea of using food in preschool art activities and the idea of wastefulness.  This is sort of a hot topic in the preschool teaching arena--most of us have an opinion about it.  There are activities that use fresh vegetables (like vegetable stamping, decorating potatoes, etc.) or dried foods (like rice or beans).  During our Grocery Store theme, we have been and are planning to use food in some of our activities.


Using a real pumpkin for Pirate Potato Head

Varying opinions range from "this is a waste of food when there are starving people in the world" to "well, you're not going to feed people with this rice, so why not use it for projects?".   A friend of mine who is from Kenya shared the other day that her cultural upbringing has influenced her stance on the matter--that one should simply not use food in a wasteful manner.  Food is for eating.  Don't take for granted that there is food on the table.  Finish what's on your plate.  Don't throw food away. 

flax seed in the sensory table
 
I have always shared the "we would not be feeding the hungry with this food anyway, so what does it matter" paradigm.  But I hadn't really considered the perception of someone raised with a scarcity of food...much of what we do could be perceived as wasteful.  It is a cultural value that I have not really considered.  As a part of a cultural majority, it takes effort to understand beyond my own perception.  Necklace-making seems like a primary use for macaroni noodles. 

Potato Prints

But what about using art materials that are eco-friendly and will biodegrade (food).  I'd rather fill the landfills (not that you're child's art will ever end up there!) with beans, rice, macaroni, or vegetables, than plastic crap like beads, pom poms, "silk" or plastic collage materials.  What will the environmental thumbprint be if I use natural versus synthetic?

Bean Soup with dried beans and glue

I invite any and all opinions on the matter.  Please post a comment...I welcome your rebuttles, too!

Comments

  1. Like you, I have always been torn on this subject. I think you really have to make the decision based upon what is most important to you: cultural sensitivity? respect for the environment? new & varied experiences for the children in your program? Since we can't please them all, listen to your inner voice - or at least the one that speaks loudest to you!

    Thank you for the point you make about what goes into the landfill: I guess I never considered that abstaining from using food items will likely result in the use & wastefulness of other (less renewable) products.

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  2. It depends what day it is and what mood I'm in as to what side of the fence I'm on. I don't go with the idea of it sending mixed messages. We eat at our eating tables, we do art at our art tables...I don't think we give kids enough credit to be able to figure it out. If I had someone in my daycare that had a cultural sensitivity, then I might try to work around that. But I don't; therefore, I don't feel that's a valid issue either. I love your landfill point...hadn't thought of that one!

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