MANATEE -- Elementary school-age children are usually discouraged from playing with their food, but Manatee County students received a special exception Friday in the name of art.
Students worked in teams to create potato people, banana cars and squash aliens as a dozen elementary schools and two middle schools participated in the fourth annual "play with your fruits and vegetables" day.
Skye Grundy, Manatee County School District nutrition coordinator, came up with the idea to teach students about the importance of fruits and vegetables while giving them a creative outlet.
"We try to introduce them to something they might not normally eat, or are not familiar with, in a fun way," said Lucy Felton, a food service specialist for the Manatee County School District.
Mark Campbell, an exceptional student education teacher at Ballard Elementary, quizzed his fifth-grade students while they worked to create a jungle scene with
"If you used eight carrots on that, what percent of the whole have you used?" he asked.
Campbell said his exceptional education students often learn best through creative outlets.
"It explores new avenues of education," Campbell said.
Students say they enjoy having an activity that allows for expression and dialogue.
"I wish we could do this all the time," fifth-grader Morgan Spillar said.
Other students started warming up to food they didn't think they liked.
"I still don't plan on eating vegetables, but I will eat a star fruit," fifth-grader Adrian Tores said.
The event was also an opportunity for students to sit down and spend time with the food service personnel and watch them chop and peel fruits and vegetables.
Each school chose a winning team based on originality and student ability to describe their masterpiece.
The district Food and Nutrition Department will select an overall district winner in coming weeks based on photographs of the creations.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.