Associating beans with fun was a winning tactic. A session – in the classroom, kitchen or even on the farm – might start with a warm-up exercise to move like a bean. The children delighted in shivering like frozen beans! They also loved playing with and investigating the dried beans. For some, it was the first time they’d interacted with beans as a raw ingredient or considered how beans can mean more than baked beans on toast. Other pupils, from families whose culinary traditions largely feature pulses, were well versed in a variety of beans. Regardless of prior exposure to beans, all the children were delighted by bean facts, eager to know what the smallest bean in the world is, and the largest.
In post-activity interviews, our researchers asked the children how these activities made them feel about the prospect of tasting the bean meals. Their answers included “curious” and “intrigued” as well as “I’ve always tasted baked beans but never the other beans. I never knew that they existed.”
In collaboration with games designer Joanna Craven, we created a board game called Beantopia. Co-developed with children, Beantopia traces the bean’s journey through the food system and is designed to appeal to a sense of competition and fun. The game brings the food system alive in a way the children find irresistible; it helps them understand how beans are good for health and for the earth.
Playing Beantopia also helps them appreciate what it takes to get beans from field to plate and the factors affect that journey, such as weather events. We’re developing educational resources around food system topics to accompany each copy of the game so that Beantopia will live on in each of the schools beyond the life of the BeanMeals project.