As an educator I am always interested in how different countries approach teaching and learning. Often teachers will hear about the approach Finland takes with students such as no homework, critical thinking evaluations, project-based learning and the fact that they attend school four days a week - not five. Finland consistently ranks at the top globally when it comes to students being able to solve problems and apply critical thinking skills. Contrast this with other nations that employ more traditional approaches such s multiple choice testing and large amounts of memorization work as the basis for marks. However, there is another way in which nations approach learning and that is through food.
Early on the tour this year the group met with the mayor of Givenchy-en-Gohelle, France and he explained the plans the local citizens have created for celebrating the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The village is at the base of the ridge and was caught in the artillery fire during the battle. After he spoke to the group we were invited to the local school for a luncheon put on by the school community. As far as the tour leaders were concerned this was quite an honour and a great opportunity for the participants.
As we entered the school I noticed that we would not be eating alone. A group of students, as well as a dozen or so daycare children, would be eating with us. In fact, we would be eating what the students were eating. The cook had simply added portions so we could all eat together. What we were served was a normal meal served in schools across France every day. On this day the tour participants and young children were served fresh baked bread, coleslaw, rice, cold cuts, fruit, a cheese tray and water. It was obvious that good healthy food for children was very important to the school. It was an important part of the school day so students could learn after they had eaten. The children were not rushed through their meal as they are back home. They would learn about a healthy diet as a part of their every day life.
At the school where I teach the food is processed. Students eat poutine and pizza and drink pop. We have numerous pop and candy machines bordering our cafeteria and I believe that our predominant unhealthy diet impacts our students ability to learn. Leaving the school I felt as though our system should adopt this approach to teaching students.
Blake Seward, High school teacher
Smiths Falls, Ontario