- Make a solid plan
- Getting started: make your life easier
- Take time to enjoy what you made
All You Need to Know About Cooking in the Classroom
Intimidated by the thought of trying to wrangle 20 or so children into a cooking class? That’s where we come in. We’ve already been there and made the mistakes- so you don’t have to.
Think of cooking at school like a field trip, but without the hassle of recruiting volunteers or organizing busses. There’s a lot to learn about and teach, from science, math and reading to communication, history and food systems—and the kids’ genuine enthusiasm is amazing to harness.
Perhaps it’s the prospect of eating good food, perhaps it’s the change of pace and sense of discovery. Either way, there’s no denying that magic happens when you bring children and food together in the classroom.
The basics: Make a solid plan
Things to keep in mind:
- Equipment. Cooking in the classroom can take different forms, depending on the school. Some schools have access to a fully equipped kitchen while others get creative and bring the “kitchen” to the classroom. Either method works wonderfully. In fact, you might be surprised by how much can do in a classroom (trust us, we’ve done it all!). Equipment such as mixing bowls, cutting boards, knives, blenders, electric grills, microwaves and griddles offer a lot of flexibility in the classroom.
- Food intolerances and allergies, and restrictions. Often this information has already been gathered at the start of the school year. Be mindful that some students may have food restrictions based on their religion, such as pork, which are not allergies.
Pro tip: If you’re cooking with high heat using a griddle or grill, you will need to have a source of ventilation unless you want the whole school to join you in a fire drill.
- Portions. When you’re selecting the recipe, keep in mind how many students you need to feed and what size of portions you want to serve. A snack-size portion may be plenty.
- Classroom setup. If you’re cooking in a classroom, think about your setup. Will you divide students into groups or have them work individually or in pairs? If you’re using equipment that you need to plug in, how far are the outlets from the workstations? Will you need extension cords?
Pro Tip: Wondering how much to make? A recipe that can feed four adults will make enough for roughly 16 students. If you want to give students some samples to take home to continue the learning you may also need zip-top bags or containers.
- Support. It can be incredibly helpful to have extra support, especially as class sizes continue to grow. With younger students who benefit from extra guidance, support is essential. In a perfect world, you’d have one adult for every four students. Helpful TAs, parents, grandparents and older students (looking for volunteer credits) can often lend a hand.
Getting started: Make your life easier
- Kitchen skills. Ask your students what their favourite food to make is. Ask them what they’d like to learn to cook. Answers to these questions will give you a sense of your students’ baseline skills and provide recipe ideas.
- Make a deal. Ask students what they think will be important in terms of keeping the classroom a safe place to cook and learn. Put together a list of basic safety and communication guidelines that everyone agrees to. Making a deal is a good activity idea on its own and is essential if you plan to cook with students on a regular basis.
- Cleaning up. Draw up a list of clean-up duties. Depending on your recipe, these may include wiping counters; sweeping; and washing, drying and putting away dishes. Be clear about expectations with students.
Savour: Take time to enjoy the fruits of your labour together
- Let students serve themselves. Serving food family style ensures students get what they need. Learning to like a new food is a multi-step process that includes seeing it, touching it, smelling it and observing others eating it. When the students are ready, they will try it. We’ve found teachers appreciate not feeling like they have to enforce a “one bite” rule and students think this approach is more respectful.
- Eat together. A major aspect of food literacy is learning to make food and then eating it together- in a social way. We hear time and time again how valuable the social aspect of eating is.
Ask for feedback. Ask students what was easy, what was hard and what they learned. We always ask students what they would change to make the recipe better. Students can get incredibly creative and this question gives them the chance to customize their learning.