Only 5% of Aussie kids are getting their daily veg.*
The problem's not new. Kids have been pushing uneaten veggies around their plates for generations. Teacher, television host, and best-selling children's author Alice Zaslavsky reckons we're ready for a fresh approach. She has created a free, digital program for grades 3-6 that flips food education on its head.
It's called Phenomenom (with an m). And it might just help the next gen. rethink veggies for good. The project, comprised of 25 episodes, 50 downloadable resources and an interactive website (phenomenom.com.au), is the first of its kind and has been funded by Hort Innovation, the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture, using the vegetable research and development levy, and contributions from the Australian Government.
"Phenomenom is a huge leap in the right direction," says Alice. "I'd like to think that a movement is sprouting. A shift in societal attitudes towards vegetables - and education - propelled forward by the kids themselves."
Alice engaged future forecasters, Colmar Brunton, to undertake research with parents, teachers and even the kids themselves, including finding out what 8-12 year olds are watching, and where. The answer: snackable content featuring kids their own age, that's freely accessible online.
An anarchic mix of live action and animation, Phenomenom transports kids from classrooms onto tall ships, deep inside worm farms, and back out through interstellar wormholes.
Set in a 'classroom of the very near future' (Melbourne's Press Club Projects), Alice is joined by a class of Super Natural Learners. "The best thing that we did is cast curious, sparky, kids," Alice explains. "Then followed them around with cameras as they learned about veggies for themselves. Even if they started at a point where they hated all vegetables (and honestly, some did) by the end, they were smelling ingredients and touching and tasting. That was so thrilling for me to witness, because the whole point is to meet kids wherever they are… we've already done that with at least six."
Along the way, the Super Naturals meet illustrious guests such as MasterChef Australia judge, George Calombaris, River Cottage Australia host, Paul West, AFL champion Chris Judd, Mars One astronaut candidate Dianne McGrath, Olympic athlete Morgan Mitchell, and a host of experts across nutrition, psychology, and native foods. All set to a soundtrack created by actual rock-stars, including You Am I's Davey Lane.
The series is complemented by a set of 50 curriculum-aligned classroom resources that are designed to be easily searchable on Phenomenom's interactive website - perfect for busy teachers. Combining the history of cuisine and agriculture with lessons about art, maths and science, the emphasis is always on exploration, cooperation, tactile experience and taste. It's the perfect launching pad for a richer understanding of the world.
"Teachers are always on the lookout for resources that put kids in charge of their learning, without needing to find extra time, expensive new books or equipment." Alice hopes that Phenomenom will not only help connect students with fresh food, but also encourage an appetite for learning, as well as inspiring teachers and students to create clickable content of their own in class and at home.
The episodes and corresponding resources will be released weekly during school terms 2 & 3 via phenomenom.com.au.