Munch around the world
A successful Year 9 Food Technology unit with a global context was adapted to incorporate the Technological Products component of the Technology curriculum. As they explored international foods, the students learnt about the properties of the ingredients they used and how those ingredients could be manipulated.
Riccarton High School teacher Gillian Mandley returned to the classroom following a six-month Endeavour Teacher Fellowship. Her placement with Westland Milk Products (WMP) had given her a good understanding of how the food industry operates. Inspired by this new knowledge, Gillian was keen to enhance her teaching through linking industry practice with aspects of the Technology curriculum. Gillian reviewed her programmes and planned to incorporate more learning from the Technological Knowledge and Nature of Technology strands, focusing on the Technological Products component.
Promoting Food Technology
As well as changing her programmes to teach the newer strands in more depth, Gillian also wanted to change attitudes around Food Technology as a subject. A lot of Food Technology students opted for Hospitality in Year 12. This meant Year 12–13 Food Technology classes were so small that they had to be taught as a combined class. Gillian hoped that moving her junior students towards a more investigative approach in developing food would add to their enjoyment, raise their level of knowledge (particularly of ingredients, the properties of ingredients, and how they could be manipulated in a feasible way), and better prepare them for senior Food Technology.
Gillian continued to promote pathways from secondary school through to tertiary study and careers in the food industry. Following her work at WMP, she could discuss the many career opportunities she had learnt about. Gillian also wanted to make more links with the science department and encourage science-based students to consider Food Technology. Senior students have participated in the NZIFST/CREST Student Product Development Challenge, something Gillian hopes will raise the profile of Food Technology and encourage Year 11 students to continue taking the subject.
Adapting a unit
In previous years, Gillian had taught a Year 9 unit with a community focus – Munch around the world. Riccarton High School has a large number of international students and the class worked in groups to develop traditional recipes from different cultures. Gillian says it was impossible to add more teaching to the 10-week (three one-hour lessons per week) unit without dropping something else. She decided to lessen the emphasis on Technological Practice (given that students would be learning about this component in other Technology rotations) and do less teaching around the Brief Development component.
The unit started with a pre-test on Technological Literacy to assess students’ prior knowledge (particularly of Technological Products) and a lesson about Food Technology, food safety, and hygiene. Gillian put the students into groups of three and gave them a brief to consider: "To produce a healthy recipe for a specified cultural group and to share it with the school community through the school newsletter." The students developed fruit platters and chicken and vegetarian kebabs. While developing their healthy recipes, the students practised cooking skills – weighing and measuring, basic knife skills, oven use and reading recipes.
The Technological Products component was introduced when the class arrived to the smell of butter chicken bubbling on the stove. Most of the students were familiar with this dish, and some immediately made comments such as: “It looks a bit thin”. The sauce still needed reducing so Gillian asked what the students thought could be done to thicken it. This opened up a big discussion and led to students thinking about ingredients. Gillian then had the students taste the chicken in order to identify the (24) ingredients, suggest what their individual functions were in the recipe, and record their answers on a worksheet.
Gillian laid out all the ingredients individually for the students to examine them and discuss their performance properties. Each student was assigned one ingredient and produced a poster for the classroom wall (the 'word wall') describing the physical and functional characteristics of that ingredient.
Gillian says the food sampling activities helped guide her students to Curriculum Levels 1 and 2 understandings, so that she could then build them up to Level 4. “The discussion around the food-tasting activities, and the opportunities to develop the necessary literacy skills (understanding the terminology of the component), helped the students move up the Curriculum Levels. Producing the word wall helped start this off, and next time we will add to the word wall as the students gain a deeper understanding of ingredients.”
Within the original unit, the students had done sensory evaluation 'at a basic level'. To get students thinking about the language involved, Gillian had them taste cheese and use a Star Profile with descriptors to evaluate the samples. The adapted unit involved students in more formal sensory testing, and gave them more opportunities to do it.
In another lesson, each group was given a pre-made butter chicken product and heated it up according to the instructions on the packet or jar. They had to check that the product was safe to eat and then set up a sensory evaluation session for the rest of the class. The students recorded their observations on a worksheet and shared their thoughts during a class discussion. “The students looked at the labelling and compared the ingredients. They could taste the differences and observed that some were thicker or thinner. We were starting to look at Curriculum Level 3 and 4 Technological Products. Next time, I will try to include some objective testing.”
Exploring international foods
In preparation for the students’ research, Gillian informed the librarians of the cultures the groups were studying, so that they had plenty of books and magazines that were relevant to the unit. Time was also allocated during the library sessions to teach students effective library and Internet research skills. The groups looked at the types of food grown and eaten in their chosen culture, and considered the physical and functional characteristics of those foods. In the classroom, they learnt about nutritional guidelines for healthy eating, and tested a variety of foods – exploring the performance properties of the ingredients, and conducting objective and subjective testing.
The class also explored international foods through visiting food markets – Asian, Mediterranean and Korean. (Each group was assigned a task to help organise the visits.) Students were allowed to select some items of food for Gillian to purchase, as long as it was food that the group hadn't eaten before. Back at school, the students tasted all the different foods and did a sensory analysis of them.
With increased understanding of ingredients and their functions, each group developed a recipe that was representative of one of the cultures in their team. The students presented their food to the class, describing the physical and functional attributes of the main ingredients and the changes to the ingredients during preparation and cooking. The students conducted a sensory evaluation test on each dish. Each group produced a computer-assisted presentation about their recipe and the ingredients. These presentations were put on Moodle.
Although Gillian describes the adapted unit as 'still a work in progress', she is pleased with its success. “The students were positive about the unit and enjoyed choosing their own recipes to trial and test. Next time, I will guide them to include more examples that relate to Curriculum Level 4 of the Technological Products Indicators of Progression when they present their findings.”
Gillian also plans to add a greater variety of food testing, including more sensory evaluation and possibly some paired comparison tests. She wants to build up the Year 10 programme as well, and have students doing a lot more experimental work. While adapting Munch around the World, Gillian also added more testing and trialling of materials to her Year 11 course.
The year after first delivering the adapted unit, Gillian revised the booklet and included a course outline for the students. Other changes made to the workbook include moving the focus from Technological Practice to Technological Products and including associated vocabulary. "We have found that students have had lots of teaching around Technological Practice but have not had any specific teaching for the Knowledge and Nature strands. This should also help students to be better prepared for Year 11 (Curriculum Level 6) understandings rather than trying to teach Levels 1–6 in one year. Butter chicken has been used as the product to teach Levels 1–4 of the Technological Products part of the curriculum. Almost all students know this dish and have tried it, which enables them to make more connections."
Gillian says "It is important to note that the Year 9 outline is a guide to help students, but by week 6 each group should have had enough scaffolding to enable them to work independently. This means they plan when they need to use the food room to trial and test their concepts or when they need computers to record the evidence of what they are doing. Groups who are well planned and organised get to trial and test more concepts and develop more ideas, but groups who need more scaffolding and guidance can have this too."