Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Salem Bug Trials

It had been a challenging morning with a particularly loud and distracted group of fourth-graders, but after nearly two hours of garden work, talking and writing about decomposition, and cooking, things were looking up. It was time to eat. As the group sat down to steaming bowls of Thai curry noodle soup -- one of the most delicious dishes you can imagine -- one young upstart called out, "There's a bug in my soup!"

Oh lord.

Suddenly, what was traditionally the most calm part of class -- the eating part -- turned into a modern version of the Salem witch trials: like a wildfire, one student after another shrieked about little blobs floating in their soup until nearly the whole class was in hysterics. Most of the parents tried to calm the 9-year-olds, insisting that what they were seeing were not bugs at all but merely bits of the spices we'd used -- curry powder, cumin, turmeric -- but upon closer inspection, I did see some distinctly insect-like corpses in my own bowl. "Well," I tried to explain, "this is part of what organic gardening is about. We don't use any scary chemicals, so sometimes bugs like to eat our delicious vegetables, too. If it really bothers you, though, just pick out the bugs." Nearby, a couple of boys agreed, "Yeah, it's no big deal. It's part of nature. This is delicious!" And they asked their neighbors if they could finish their uneaten soup. I love having allies, and I slurped my soup right alongside them.

I am sad to report that the vast majority of soup this morning went uneaten, though. Tomorrow, my co-teacher and I decided, we will skip cooking the bug-laden broccoli from our garden, lest another near-riot erupt.

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