Last summer, when I was traveling in Oaxaca, I ate my first insect. I’ve never been a super adventurous eater, but I always like participating in local customs. One of the customs in Oaxaca is eating chapulines, a type of small grasshopper. They can be eaten individually by the handful or used as a topping on a number of foods like esquites (corn). I didn’t fall in love with the taste of the grasshopper that I ate, but it wasn’t bad and I could definitely see that it would be a valid source of food.
This year, as part of a persuasive unit about global food issues, I wanted to incorporate the practice of eating insects. The more I researched, the more excited I was about this topic! Here are some reasons this topic works well:
- Student interest: This is definitely a subject that pulls students in because of the “ick factor”. Some feel very strongly that eating insects is disgusting.
- Culture: Many cultures world-wide eat insects. If you are a language or social studies teacher this is a good opportunities to teach students about other cultural practices and points of view.
- Environmental aspects: Many of the arguments for eating insects have to do with the lesser impact it will have on the environment when compared to meat. Exploring these could take students into a science unit about the environmental effects of the food we consume.
- Argumentation: It is a good topic to work on forming arguments for and against. It forced my students to think of arguments beyond just “it’s gross”.
I introduced the topic by showing pictures of certain uncommon foods or foods that were considered a delicacy and having students talk with a partner about if they had ever eaten the food. Then I asked who had eaten insects and asked why American culture considers things like lobster and caviar an expensive delicacy, but considers eating insects gross. We talked about how Mexico has a tradition of eating insects and looked at a video of how different insects are cooked and eaten there. NEWSELA has some great articles about eating insects, including one that specifically looks that how Mexico is rekindling this tradition.
As this lesson was for my Spanish Language Arts class, many of my students have Mexican heritage or were born in Mexico, so they were able to add a lot to the conversation with their personal experiences. Indeed, most of them had eaten some type of insect. Other students could relate to eating insects when they had tried them on a school camping trip.
My colleague mentioned that she had once bought chapulines for her students. I couldn’t find them at our local Mexican grocery store, but I did manage to find them on Amazon (see below for affiliate link), so students who wanted to were able to trying eating insects.
We then looked at other countries where insects are eaten and talked about the advantages that eating insects has over eating meat. Students did an Edpuzzle video with questions about eating insects (search “comer insectos” in Edpuzzle to find it) and then in a group had to create three arguments for and three arguments against eating insects.
This lesson only took two class periods, but as we go further into this persuasive writing unit and do a group debate and research project I have a feeling that many students will choose this topic, now that they have learned more about it.
Some of the useful videos I found are down below, and if you’d like to purchase the worksheets I created for this lesson, they are in my Teachers Pay Teachers store available here.
If you want to read more about eating insects when traveling abroad check out my post.