Memoirs of a Nutrition Educator

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By Jess Childs, Farm to School Program, Nutrition Educator

Young People Ask the Best Questions. Since beginning my Nutrition Educator career in September, I have been consistently amazed by the intelligent and honest questions students pose. They are not tied down by all the social constraints we adults deal with, but instead speak with absolute honesty, still believing wholeheartedly there is no such thing as a stupid question. It makes for lively and unpredictable conversations. At first, I was rattled by some of these discussions since they didn’t fit precisely into my carefully laid-out lesson plan. What if we go over our time limit!? However, I have gradually learned to love this aspect of teaching so much, that I find myself looking forward to weird or tricky questions. Some of the most fulfilling lessons I have taught were ones in which the students “got us off track” with engaging and insightful curiosity. These unpredictable lessons were where real progress was made. These were the times I actually could feel the impact of our program. We went off on a tangent that wasn’t planned, but kept them excited, involved, and interested in their food. That is a win.

Why I Love Getting Thrown Off Track During a lesson about where our food comes from, we were talking about how “everything comes from dirt” and the unpredictable questions began…

“What about fish meat? Fish come from water, not dirt.”
“Isn’t dirt dirty?”
“Salt comes from a rock.”
“Diet coke doesn’t come from dirt because it’s artificial.” “If dirt is so great, why does it make us sick?”

Believe it or not, these questions all came from the same class! They seemed to want to stump the speaker. The teacher was trying to keep his laughter in check as I fielded these remarkable questions to the best of my ability. This led to unplanned discussions about hand washing, fake sugars and sodium, and what fish eat! I quickly learned that students don’t really care if you know the answer or not, they just want to discuss it, give their ideas and opinions, and feel heard and valued. Of course, going off topic isn’t always ideal; you have to be sure to actually talk about what you planned on teaching that day...but if time allows, the real learning is done more organically, when structure falls away and young brains get to stretch their wings. Another win. ~JC