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How Google Classroom helped teach kids where their food comes from

Graphic illustration of two children sitting at their desks, one teacher standing and pointing at a tv screen.

Editor’s note: Tomohito Yamazaki is one of the teachers on the Dietary Education program team for Toyama University Special Needs School of Education, a school based in Toyama, Japan for children with disabilities.

One common obstacle for children with disabilities is picky eating habits. Often, this is because they don’t fundamentally understand what it is they’re eating: what ingredients are in it, how it was cooked, and how it ended up on their plate. This kind of unknown can create an uneasy sense of anxiety around the meal.

At the Special Needs School of the School of Education, University of Toyama, we’ve observed this challenge firsthand for many years. When I asked children in the classroom where beef came from, some even said it comes out of cow breast. Though they understand that beef is cow, they don’t understand how cows actually become the packaged beef that’s then sold at supermarkets, let alone the process of how ingredients get turned into meals and the fact that school meals are produced by people working in the kitchen.

Food education was always a part of our classroom lessons, but children with disabilities can sometimes have trouble understanding and visualizing verbal explanations. We needed to try a new approach to explaining food to our students, and so one of our nutrition teachers decided to try a new approach through Google Classroom.

A group of students sitting at their desks in a classroom having a meal, while watching a video on a screen at the front of the room

Teachers at Toyama University Special Needs School of Education using Google Classroom to show students video of the kitchen staff preparing their meals

Working with the kitchen staff, we produced a short video of the entire cooking process: from prepping the ingredients to cooking them together to the final plating. With Google Classroom, we were able to simultaneously share this video out to every class so that every student could watch it while they ate their lunch.

To our relief, the students responded with enthusiasm. Some of them even became huge fans of the kitchen staff and would get excited to see them every day on the screen. So we started expanding the video content to include things like how to hold chopsticks, the importance of proper chewing, and proper posture for eating.

Close-up of a student playing a game on a laptop

Visual learning helped students at the school better understand where their food comes from

With these videos, we had more flexibility than traditional classroom instruction. Closeup shots made it easier for children to see and understand what was happening, and the ability to rewind gave us the flexibility to hone in on moments where students were confused.

Since, we’ve seen significantly less leftovers at lunch. It’s our hope that technology like Google Classroom can continue to help us create easier day-to-day lives for our students, and eventually set them up for more independence.

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