Thanks to Ball State University students in the Department of Nutrition and Health Science, children in three Muncie schools learned about and sampled delicious, healthy vegetables in fun ways.

Nutrition Grows on You!

MCS District Executive Chef Chris Polo, who collaborated on the immersive learning course, shows South View Elementary youngsters kale chips, kohlrabi slices, broccomole, and a shaker (chopped) salad. The kids then got to sample everything.

Last Spring’s immersive learning experience Nutrition Grows on You! is one of many partnerships that mutually benefit students at Ball State and Muncie Community Schools (MCS).

During a colorful demonstration at South View Elementary School, complete with chef hats and aprons, students dipped kale chips in broccomole (made with broccoli and avocado). With assistance from MCS Executive Chef Christopher Polo, they tried slices of kohlrabi, and assembled and ate a shaker salad of broccoli, carrots, red onions, seasonings, and ranch dressing.

Before the demonstration, the Ball State dietetics students taught schoolchildren about cruciferous vegetables (cabbage family). In Brittany Dozier’s class of third- and fourth-graders, Ball State students Kailey Adkins, Brianne Abell, Adrienne Mayfield, and Alexis Sewell each held a poster with an image of a cruciferous vegetable and had a small group of schoolchildren gathered around them. Then, they went around the room asking questions.

From broccoli salad to superhero

First, though, Kailey led the children in saying the word, syllable by syllable: cru-siff-er-us. As they did at North View and West View Elementary schools, the Ball State students and schoolchildren talked about vegetables — such as kale, kohlrabi, and broccoli— and nutrition. And they learned some new words.

“Phytochemicals give food color and smell,” Adrienne told the students. “They prevent disease and cancer and keep foods healthy. And eventually, you become a superhero.”

Ball State student Adrienne Mayfield

Ball State student Adrienne Mayfield provides encouragement as students taste cruciferous veggies they learned about during the classroom presentation.

“This was such an awesome thing for the students!” the teacher said after the presentation. “I remember when kiwi was offered to the students, many of them didn’t know what it was. Giving them this experience is just enriching who they already are. Also, the broccoli salad they made is offered to them a lot at lunch, but I know my students don’t usually take it. In the future, I think more of them will, since they know what’s in it and they have a personal tie to it.”

The faculty mentor, Carol Friesen, wants her students to learn firsthand about teaching nutrition to elementary schoolchildren, especially those whose families have limited funds for food, and planning those lessons. She also hoped MCS students will improve their diets.

“Getting kids involved in the kitchen, through cooking classes or at home, may make them more likely to choose healthy foods,” said Dr. Friesen, professor of nutrition and dietetics in the University’s College of Health. “That is why we are doing this, in hopes that the children will eat more of these vegetables when they are served at school! That was the true impetus behind this project.”

Kailey enjoyed the experience. “I was surprised at the broad range of knowledge kids of the same age had on food. I learned how fun it can be to work with kids and get them excited about food.”

Adrienne called the course “a breath of fresh air.”

“I felt restored with the fact that nutrition education is still valued in the public school system,” she said. “This was a great experience that I’d love to do again someday.”