U-Teach Culinary Classroom

Culinary Classroom (CC) is an in-person nutrition and cooking lesson provided by our student wellness department. With COVID-19 precautions in place, we thought the program would be put on pause this year. However, through some creative problem solving and enthusiastic teachers, Wellness Specialist Johanna Bishop was able to adapt our previous model into a “U-Teach CC” model. Rather than having our student wellness department come into the classroom and lead the lesson, we turned the teaching over to the teachers. The student wellness department prepared individual servings of dry pancake mix and liquid pancake mix and delivered all of them, along with the equipment and lesson plans and let the teachers take it from there. Each student could mash up a chunk of banana, combine with both parts of the pancake mix and then make their own pancake! Students learned about the benefits of a healthy breakfast and whole grains through a safe, hands-on lesson.

This lesson was popular across all grade levels! In a time when everything seems to be virtual, over 550 students (and counting!) had a hands-on cooking lesson and made their own banana pancakes. Student wellness is now piloting a new lesson using individual packets of seed butter donated from 88 Acres.

Additional lessons learned:

  • The goal is to have a lesson that students can make independently, at their desk, in order to minimize mixing with other students. (Most of our Culinary Classroom lessons include mixing everyone’s work together, such as salsa or fruit salad.)
  • It’s helpful to have a recipe that can easily adapt for allergies and special dietary needs.
  • We used our whole wheat banana pancake recipe. We mix a large batch of the dry ingredients for pancake mix and divide into individual servings. Each serving is portioned into a mini ziplock bag. We do the same with the liquid ingredients, portioning them into plastic condiment cups with lids. Each student will also receive a portion of banana, which the teacher cuts up in class.
  • To be more efficient, we learned that it is helpful to make things in large batches, rather than on-demand. It is easy to mix and bag the dry pancake mix and store until needed. The liquid ingredients were more tricky, because they are perishable. After some recipe testing, we discovered we can freeze the individual servings of liquid mix and thaw what is needed a day or two before the class.
  • Each class also gets a bag of disposable plates/bowls/spoons so that they do not have to be returned.
  • We created equipment kits, complete with diagrams for each student, and equipment lists. This helped clarify what was included, as well as guarantee that we get everything back.
  • Everything in the equipment kit can be run through the dishwasher to fully sanitize equipment between use.
  • Having to individually portion each item is time consuming. We got better at it each time, but is still a process. For future lessons, we collaborated with a small company (88 Acres) that we work with for our school lunch program and received donations of individual seed butter packets so that portioning was already done for us! Additionally, the company provided some educational activities to go with the lesson!
  • Teachers provided feedback to make the process go smoother, including creating a PowerPoint with step by step instructions, having students write their names on the paper plates to help keep track of pancakes, dividing up the nutrition lesson and cooking times over several days, and offering activities for students to do while they wait (such as crossword puzzles and coloring pages).

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