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Ant nachos, cricket cookies baked by Canberra students in bid to popularise bug-eating

ABC News logo ABC News 12/09/2018 Jake Evans
Choc-chirp: Cricket biscuits are on the menu for Gold Creek high schoolers. © Provided by ABC News Choc-chirp: Cricket biscuits are on the menu for Gold Creek high schoolers.

A Canberra classroom is cooking up creepy crawlies in a mission to find the recipe that will make bug-eating mainstream in the Western world.

It is a lesson in sustainable eating for the Gold Creek High School students, who are mixing mealworms, ants and crickets into food.

But it is also something their science teacher, Dr Daniel White, said gives them a passion for learning.

"It's touchable, it's tangible, it's something to see, and it makes the lab come alive," he said.

Will people eat bugs without squirming?

Dr White's classroom looks more like a mad scientist's lab, full of crates of insects, jars of fungi and shelves of plants growing all about the room.

In May he began introducing crickets to the classroom and teaching students to handle them — from lab to plate.

He gave the class a mission to find the recipe that would get kids at the school to enjoy eating bugs.

"There's a lot known, but we don't know what the recipe that will actually click with the public is," Dr White said.

"We don't know what the perfect breeding system is for them, we don't even know which insects are best for Australia."

The students have experimented with the psychology of getting someone to overcome bug-eating, with the art and marketing of insects, and with surveys and focus groups to see what their classmates do — and do not — respond well to.

"They can see how they've changed the perception of the school towards insects, they can see that they can actually make differences in the world. And for kids who generally feel their voice isn't heard, they're not making an impact on the world, that can be a huge thing," Dr White said.

One of the students involved, Alex Guascoine-Johnson, said the experiments changed his mind on bugs.

"I hated insects. I absolutely hated them. But I'm a bit more used to them now," he said.

Current recipes still have a few bugs

On Friday the students cooked up a swarm for the school: choc-bug cookies, ant and mealworm nachos and cricket-flavoured ice cream.

"[They are] things you would normally enjoy, now you can add more flavour and protein to it," Student Leah Jorgensen said.

And the verdict?

Student Keona Abraham said she could see herself cooking insects at home.

"Now that I've tried it, it's actually quite yummy, so I can introduce it to my family - they might be a little grossed out'," she said.

Leah said when someone first put a bunch of bugs in her face, she was apprehensive.

Now, she thinks her cookies adorned with whole crickets are "better than Subway cookies".

Others were "not fussed".

"I tried some of the nachos, but not again," Alex said.

Getting under students' skin

Student Alex liked the idea of cooking with insects.

"I think it's a great idea, you can get so much out of them, and it doesn't take a lot to breed them," he said.

Dr White said the experiment has been a success in teaching students there is more to learn than the textbook.

"Giving the kids that ownership of not just their learning, but also of the experiences and the world that they're going to inherit gives them a great passion for actually coming to school and doing things, as opposed to saying: 'These are the things you need to know to pass the subject'," he said.

And he thinks the students are making headway on their secret recipe.

"I think we are. Maybe we'll have cricket chips, or maybe we'll have them as the equivalent of popcorn — but that's substitution, the future will be expansion," he said.

"There's some very exciting things the kids are making, and looking into."

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