If you were going to make a pie for an enemy, what would you put in it? Over the years I’ve heard kids give some pretty wild answers to that question. Iguana guts. Crazy glue. Rotten zombie brains… At an elementary school for highly gifted kids, a first grader recommended battery acid. At another school, at the top of his lungs, a second grader yelled out dog s*#t. (Poor little bugger didn’t get to see the end of the show…)
This is all part of the Enemy Pie Experiment, a presentation I do on author visits for kids in grades K-3. I ask a few questions, read the book, and then the kids get to work finding the best way to get rid of an enemy. They make a good pie, then a bad pie, and decide which one does a better job achieving their goal.
For teachers wanting to do this experiment on their own, I have a few quick recommendations:
1) Expect a little noise. Kids get excited with this presentation. I’m just sayin’…
2) Playdoh is your friend. You will most likely hear ideas that you hadn’t anticipated. Let your students make those things with the Doh. And for liquids, let them mix vials of colored water.
3) Strategically include everyone. There will be lots of chances to participate! (I get about 60 kids involved in this activity, either making stuff or answering questions.) A couple suggestions on choosing your helpers:
-When a student is making an ingredient out of playdoh, give them enough to share with their neighbors. It gives you a few more active helpers and it’s a good little instant community builder.
- If any of your students are having “friendship issues,” try to give them a big role in the pie making activity. (Rolling out the dough, putting on the whip cream, and putting on the shaving cream are highly coveted jobs…) Even if it’s just for 30 seconds, these students will actively associate fun and joy with the process of conflict resolution. that can be powerful stuff!
4) Divert the horrendous. 99% of the time, student answers are non-controversial. But for the over the top ones… Don’t do fake poo. And fake blood is pretty creepy too. When kids start pushing that envelope, meet them halfway with kitty litter or ketchup. In my experience things go rapidly downhill whenever that line-of-disgust is crossed.
5) Test out pie theory. After the pies are made, do a walk through to see which pie works best. Set the stage for your kids giving the bad pie to their enemy. What would happen after they took a bite? Then try the same scenario with the good pie, and vote on which method worked best.
That’s it in a nutshell. Below I’ve added a list of basic ingredients and items that you’ll need.
Basic Ingredients for the Enemy Pie Experiment
dough (i use the little biscuit rolls that you find next to the cookie dough at the grocery store. one poppable container per pie.)
2 pie pans
playdoh – red is used the most. blue next, then yellow.
dirt, rocks, and weeds
worms (put wet gummy worms in a jar of dirt and shake it up. they look real!)
plastic bugs (get them cheap at oriental trading company)
one can whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry on top (for the good pie)
one can shaving cream and kitty litter (to top off the bad pie)
that should cover the bare bones, and most of the ideas your students come up with. here are some extra ideas:
cat food, dog bones, slime, ketchup, mustard, itching powder (i just use flour), sticky eyeballs, sawdust, sweaty socks…
I know this presentation requires a bit of prep time and a fair amount of energy. But holy smokes- it’s so worth it. It’s a blast to do, the kids love it, and the hands-on lesson on conflict resolution is easy for kids to get.
And if you do decide to do this, please drop me a line and let me know how it went!