Cover image: International Year of Pulses

International Year of Pulses

Did you know that the year 2016 has been declared International Year of Pulses by the United Nations? The aim is to raise awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses, thereby supporting global food security and nutrition. The slogan for the year is "nutritious seeds for a sustainable future". So perhaps you could bring pulses into your lessons this year, as a way to explore topics around food, farming, nutrition and sustainable development.

In the curriculum

Teaching about pulses can fit into the following subjects:
  • Design & Technology (Food & Nutrition) Key Stages 1, 2 & 3: understand what makes a healthy diet; cook a variety of dishes; understand where food comes from and how different ingredients are grown.
  • Geography Key Stage 2 and above: human geography; land use; economic activity.
  • Science Key Stages 1 & 2: learn about plants; identify and name different sources of food; observe how plants grow. Key Stage 3 and above: what makes a healthy human diet; nitrogen fixing and crop rotation.

What are pulses?

Pulses, also known as 'grain legumes' are a group of 12 crops that produce edible seeds in pods. They include dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, and lentils. They are very nutritious, being high in protein and fibre as well as providing various vitamins, amino acids and other micro nutrients. The following clip explains further what pulses are and why are they important crops for food security: [embed][/embed]

Teaching ideas

  • Students could split into groups, with each group finding out about a different type of 'pulse' crop, including where it's mainly grown and consumed.
  • They could research different 'national dishes' that use pulses, and cook them. Or bring in family recipes from home. Or even invent their own dishes.
  • Pulses are very cheap compared to other sources of protein (such as meat). Students could compare the cost of a meal using pulses with one using meat.
  • Students could experiment with growing different types of pulses to observe how plants grow. (And maybe use bean-sprouts in their recipes!)
  • International Year of Pulses poster - download from FAO websiteThe slogan for the year is "nutritious seeds for a sustainable future" - students could research the reasons for this, ie: how can growing and consuming more pulses globally contribute to a more sustainable future?
  • Students could explore and debate the sustainability and ethics of meat-eating, vegetarianism, veganism and ideas such as 'meat-free Mondays'.
  • Students could use pulses themselves to create an art-work or picture on the theme of 'sustainability' or 'why pulses are great'.
  • For Early Years, little children love using pulses as 'messy' play, eg filling different containers with them, or exploring textures. This could lead in to discussing different foods, where they come from, why some are better for the environment, etc.

Teaching resources

Are you going to teach about pulses this year? Let us know in the comments box below.