It’s National Farm to School Month! As part of our ongoing celebration, we are sharing some of our favorite activities to do outside of the cafeteria. Our mystery box is a RI Farm to School classic! It serves as a great introduction for kids and adults to explore our food…in more than one sense of the word. Have questions about how to build one and incorporate it in your classroom, early childhood center or community center? We have answers.
The Mystery Box!
Try a mystery box in your classroom — an easy way to increase curiosity or explore fruits and vegetables! It allows for tactile exploration without the preconceptions of what something might taste like given its appearance. It also serves as a great segue into taste tests.
To make one, find a box that will fit a variety of fruits and vegetables inside of it and is easy to open and close repeatedly. Feel free to go a little larger with box size (we put a pillow inside of ours if the item is small). Cut a hole in the top of the box, big enough for small hands but not too large as to allow for sneak peaks! Next, take a tube sock and cut off the toe part. Attach the top of the sock around the hole using glue or staples. It should create a tunnel for kids to reach into and feel inside the box. Alternatively, glue a square of fabric (larger than the opening) on opposite corners.
When ready to use, put a local fruit or vegetable inside for students to feel and guess. You can put anything in the mystery box; however, we shy away from things easily squishable like blueberries and strawberries, which can get messy. Go around with the box, having everyone reach their hands in. If anyone has an idea about what it might be, ask that they keep it to themselves, since there will be time to share after everyone gets a chance to reach inside. After everyone has had a turn, invite students to describe how it felt. Was it hard, soft, bumpy? What shape did it have? Did it feel like it might be heavy? Was it big, small, tough, delicate? At this point, students can share what fruits or veggies they think might be inside. Reveal the produce inside and talk about it for a few minutes. Have students had it before? Has it been in school meals?
Using the box with older audiences? Explore how sight is integral to our thoughts and ideas of produce. Before revealing the item, take a hand count of who would try the item based on what they felt. The mystery box is also a great opportunity to challenge what we know about certain fruits and vegetables. Put in a purple carrot and what people who knew what it is realize that carrots come in a variety of colors or explore different varieties of winter squash.
Are you a Farm to School Champion looking for more inspiration and ideas about all things Farm to School? Sign up for our seasonal Harvest of the Month Newsletter! Throughout the year, you will receive tasting ideas, storybooks, activities, lesson plans and grant opportunities straight to your inbox.