Food & Experience Design

Gain inspiration from designer, Marije Vogelzang, who redesigns the rituals and routines of food and eating.

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock
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As I think about creating new rituals and routines in a school, I think about designing new cues which signal something new and different, that you are entering a space or situation which supports new kinds of behaviors. In this context, I think about food designer Marije Vogelzang, who successfully and elegantly disrupts expectations and rituals around food. Using the simple medium, she is able to change norms around food, something which we all have deep experience and routines around. Consider how she does this, she might invite you for dinner with strangers, and then make you stick your head (but not body) through a cloth to enter the shared dining experience. She might change the color of the expected experience. 

Makes me think about the simple ways we can take advantage of our knowledge of existing materials and expected behaviors in order to intelligently break from them. She does a lot with a little. How might we learn from Marije? 


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Photo of Moss Pike

Fascinating! I'm interested to learn more about Marije's work with food and ritual. We surveyed kids at our school a few years back on workload and overall satisfaction with school life, and one of the biggest correlations we found had to do with food: kids who ate a regular dinner with family each night reported some of the highest overall satisfaction ("happiness") numbers in the entire school. It's potentially interesting, then, to make the connection between the kinds of signals we send through food and the community that they can build. Something to continue pondering!

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

While I do think that there is certainly some prototyping we could do with food, I don't mean to be literal. I think we should ask ourselves, what is the 'food' around our schools? Is it the whiteboards? the desks? the paper? What are the basic mediums around our schools that we might engage differently, as she engages food, to set up new rituals?

Photo of Moss Pike

Agreed. The rituals we've created around food are some of the more powerful I've seen, so how can we use them to create others elsewhere? Why are food rituals so meaningful, and can these experiences be translated? Great questions!

Photo of Margaret Powers

I wonder if it would be informative to also ask, what are the rituals of family and community that are powerful outside of school (e.g., pep talk before a team game, family dinner) and could (should?) we learn from them or seek to create things of a similar vein in school?

Photo of Mark Carlucci

I think learning about family/community/cultural rituals is important.
I attended a presentation about First Nations students recently. It was eye opening to see that many of my classroom expectations I thought were the norm are actually contrary to many of the students cultural expectations.
Understanding the differences really helped me break from the expectation of what is normal and better reach many of my student with and without First Nations backgrounds.

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

Awesome, do you have any examples of where cultural expectations or routines were different?

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

Absolutely, maybe there are some great routines at home that could be carried into school, or vice versa. Perhaps students can learn new behaviors that they want to set-up at home. Would really drive home new actions at school.

Photo of Mark Carlucci

One that stood out was the expectation when dealing with elders. The presenter told of story of visiting a community elder at home. She was expected and when she arrived she knocked on the door and waited for the elder to answer. For the remainder of the visit the elder never spoke.
What happened was that the presenter offended the elder. Being expected she should have walked in the house, got some water boiling and readied some tea. The elder would have attended to her when ready.
Not being from the community the presenter had no idea of this expectation, but was later told that you don't disrupt an elder like that and it was very offensive.
It makes me wonder if some of my students don't ask questions or resources on their own because they are worried about offending me, being the elder in the room. If I offer they gladly accept but otherwise don't say anything.

Another interesting concept was in the case of new students. It is common for us to get students from remote fly-in communities. Few may come from any given community at a time, so they often don't know anyone.
The presenter explained that if I noticed one of these students skipping classes with another student, that rather than show concern for them missing class, I should be happy. That student has made a friend, and if they regularly skip together it is beneficial. Community is paramount, and supersedes curriculum; curriculum that is often not reflective of the values and beliefs of their culture.
I was always taught skipping school was a bad thing. I never skipped classes as a student and as a teacher always thought of it as something that shouldn't happen. But after reflecting on it, I've started looking at situations like from a very different angle. If can be a social activity, that can foster growth, at times.

Photo of Elysa Fenenbock

Thanks so much for sharing. I think the story about meeting the elder is super insightful.

I wonder how we might help ourselves and our peers be more aware of our biases and expectations as we enter new situations. Feels like it could be helpful to have a brainstorm about all of the potential expectations we might have before entering new situations.

What do you think teachers expectations are around trying new ideas and practicing new behaviors are at school?