Explore Italy and its food
This set of activities will provide an introduction to pasta for children aged 7-11 years to inspire them to want to learn more about the journey their pasta makes from the farm to the fork. Spoken language, geography design and technology and computing are all involved. The activities can be done independently of each other and are intended as a selection for you to pick and choose the most appropriate/interesting for your classroom or setting.
Locate Italy on a map of Europe and /or the world. note how its distinctive shape makes it an easy country to find. Discuss its position in relation to the UK.
Ask the children to consider the climate in relation to ours. note how Italy is further south towards the equator and will therefore have a milder climate. Talk about how the climate also varies within the country from northern Italy to the South.
If possible, use Google Earth to ‘travel to’ and explore different parts of Italy, including Gragnano - often known as the home of pasta - near the Bay of Naples.
Ask the children for any facts that they already know about Italy and if appropriate, scribe the information on a board to produce a ‘mind map’.
Tell the children that they are going to do some research in order to find out more about the country and then present their findings. This could be in the form of: a poster; a talk with slides on the computer (e.g. Powerpoint); or an information leaflet. Allow children whatever time you feel appropriate to find and put together the information using books and/or the internet.
Children could work individually, in pairs or groups and produce either an overview of Italy, or each look at a different aspect such as: climate, food, cities, culture etc.
If possible or time allows after the research, re-visit the original ‘mind map’ to see how much more information can now be added.
The aim of this activity is to learn more about Italy and its food, including pasta in a fun way!
The quiz sheets have 20 statements about Italy which need to be ticked either true or false.
Either read the statements aloud or allow the children to read and fill in the answers for themselves.
If possible, make the activity into a game by putting the children into teams to see who can score the highest.
Mark and talk through the answers together.
If possible visit a store, or alternatively you might ask the children to do some research as a homework activity and pose questions such as:
• Look at the variety of pasta on offer. How many different types are available? (dried, fresh and tinned)
• Why is the fresh pasta kept in fridges?
• Which are the most expensive types of pasta?
• Which pasta is the best value for money?
• What type of pasta does the store stock the most of?
• Find out where different varieties of pasta are made.
• What are the ingredients? Are they always the same?
• Are any of the products aimed at children?
• What different colours are available?
• What fillings are used in the filled pasta?
Blind taste test
Investigate whether coloured pasta has any bearing on the taste.
Firstly, tell or remind the children what colours of pasta are available and talk about what ingredients are used to colour them.
• Green is coloured with spinach
• Purple is coloured with tomatoes or beetroot
• Red is coloured with carrots
• Orange is coloured with squash/pumpkin
• Black is coloured with squid or cuttlefish ink
Blindfold one child at a time and get them taste one piece of ‘ordinary’ pasta and one coloured variety. (To be a fair test the pasta varieties should be the same)
Can the child say which is which and, even more challenging, what colour one of them might be! Discuss the results asking questions such as:
• Does the colour make a difference to the taste?
• Is one colour stronger than the others?
Provide a selection of as many pasta examples as possible to look at in the classroom and /or look at the sheet provided.
Ask children to name as many shapes as they can. Try to spell the pasta names then mix up the letters to create anagrams (e.g. tegstpiah, enpne)
Who can unravel them and name that pasta!
Challenge the children to create the shapes as accurately as possible using modelling clay or a dough. (Thinking carefully about the shapes and how they are made will help to interest the children in how the shapes are produced by the experts)
Ask the children to think about how the shapes might be produced.
Talk about which shapes are the easiest and most difficult to produce. Shapes such as Conchiglie (sea-shell) and Farfalle (bow or butterfly-shaped) will be quite challenging.
Children might then think about trying to create a new shape in preparation for making their own pasta after the online event.