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Strauss's avatar

What should I include in my cooking class?

Asked by Strauss (20326points) August 22nd, 2014

My daughter’s school emailed me yesterday, offering me $20.00/hour as a “volunteer” to facilitate an after-school cooking class of about 5–6 students. The class would be approximately one hour per day, four days a week for six weeks. I have a core of an idea of how to facilitate this, but I would like the input of my fellow jellies. I know we have a lot of foodies, cooks, and maybe even a chef or two in the tidepool. I know my stuff around the kitchen, but I’m not sure of the pedagogy involved in teaching it.

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22 Answers

muppetish's avatar

A few questions that might help guide users more when providing suggestions: what are the age demographics of the students (K-12 or adults)? Will they be completely new to cooking, or is it assumed that they know the basics? Do you have free reign as a facilitator, or do you have a superior who has prescribed some guidelines for you to follow?

Strauss's avatar

The students are ninth-graders. My assumption is that they will be completely new to cooking, but any knowledge or experience would be a plus for them. I will definitely start with the basics and move on from there. At this point, I am assuming I have free reign as to lesson plan, menu, etc.; I have just today received the original email, so I am a little short on those details. I would like to get as much input here as possible to enhance the sketchy lesson plan I have developed in the past few hours.

muppetish's avatar

I don’t think you could go wrong with breakfast! It’s relatively easy and will help them cover a lot of basics (heating pans to the correct temperature, the importance of seasoning ingredients, keeping an eye on the stove, etc.) It will also give you the ability to have students choose vegan/vegetarian options. It could be a theme that extends over a few of the lessons (stove top breakfast, baked breakfast, etc.) In terms of learning outcomes, it’s also practical since many students skip breakfast in the morning because their parents might not have time to cook and they don’t know how to make anything yet.

In terms of pedagogy, it’s important to let students know “what am I learning?” and “why am I learning this?” It’s also good to emphasize how skills can transfer. For example, if they learn how to boil pasta, how can they use that for other recipes? Finally, keep them engaged. Students might get bored. They also might think they know more than they actually do.

zenvelo's avatar

My daughter took a week of Italian cooking classes in 8th grade, and loved it.

Some Italian dishes:
Marghareta Salad
Lasagna (meat and cheese)

elbanditoroso's avatar

I would start out with the basics – liquid and dry measures.

Discuss glass versus metal containers

Discuss freshness

ragingloli's avatar

knife skills.

CWOTUS's avatar

“rein”, dammit… “free rein”

Teach them the basic techniques that they’ll read about in recipes outside of class:
– The difference between sauteeing and frying;
– Broiling vs. roasting vs. baking;
– The difference between boiling and steaming;
– How to use a pressure cooker (I wish I had been exposed to this years ago.);
– How a microwave works, and how to work with it;
– How to chop, slice, mince, dice and perform other knife tricks – safely!;
– How to sharpen a knife, and

- Teach them to flip the knife over and scrape things off the cutting board with the back / top of the knife blade. It tortures me to see otherwise competent cooks take the edge off their knife – deliberately! – by scraping it across the board to move the chopped onions into the pot. Sacrilege!

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Congratulations! What a wonderful opportunity.

There is a tremendous amount of work involved in designing, developing and deploying a training program. In order to set the students, as well as yourself, up for success, you will have to have enough time on the front end to plan it all out. Here is a top-line guide to creating a training program.

There are two challenges you are already facing.
1.) The time-frame has already been established. This is a major no-no in the world of instructional design. Until the objectives are established and the training designed, there is little way to estimate how much time it will take to accomplish the goals. For the amount of time being offered (24 lessons; 24 hours), the training will need to be top-line.

2.) Who is the audience? You know that it is 5–6 teens. Is this a one-time class or will it be offered on a regular basis? If it is one-time and the students have already signed up, it would be worth meeting with them and/or developing a questionnaire about what they want to get out of the class.

Good luck with this!

RocketGuy's avatar

My daughter took a cooking class, and they made desserts. Some items did not need an oven.

I think 9th grade is old enough not to get burned by the stove or pan. Knife safety would need a bit more skill. Gotta be able to complete the recipe in one class, so no boiling down sauces and no beef stews.

@muppetish‘s idea for breakfast is good too.

Megan64's avatar

Mis en place will help kids in both the kitchen and the classroom.

Adagio's avatar

Ask them for suggestions about what they would like to learn to cook, perhaps something suitable for weekday family dinner, it’s hard to motivate kids to cook foods they have entirely no interest in. Do you have a daughter/niece/sister/relative of about the same age, it could be useful to ask them for ideas. Once a week I used to teach my teenage daughter and her friend how to cook a particular meal that we would then eat for dinner, they had a lot of input into the choice of meal but it was good, wholesome food we made, and the exercise was fun for all concerned.

livelaughlove21's avatar

Our teachers here don’t even make $20/hr. Sweet deal.

9th graders, huh? Hm…Ramen noodles.~

This might help.

dappled_leaves's avatar

If you teach them only how to make good soup from food they have left over in the fridge, and how to make bread, you will have had a profound impact on how they eat and shop for the rest of their lives.

JLeslie's avatar

I would definitely incorporate safety in the kitchen with the dishes you make. You might want to start out fun and easy and make a meatless pasta dish, but eventually when you do a dish that has both meat and uncooked items, you can give a little lecture about cross contamination before the cooking begins. You can also teach about using a knife properly when the opportunity arises.

Aside from safety select to prepare foods that will teach new techniques and cooking vocabulary. Sautee, fold, mix, simmer, boil, broil, dice, slice, strain, etc. how to follow a recipe, including reading the recipe in its entirity before you even start. Also, if you can give a little background to the dish, the history of the region it’s from or how the technique developed that might be interesting. I wouldn’t spend a ton of time on it, but a quick story. Some recipes might just be from your own family and a personal story about your memories making it when you would visit your grandma, or whatever applies. Lastly, teaching where to look when measuring liquids (I can remember what that bubble looking thingy is called) using cup measure for dry ingredients, basics on converting measure like three teaspoons equals a tablespoon, etc.

Some dishes we did in my 7th grade Home Ec class are listed below:

Parker house rolls (teaches about bread and you can tell the history of the roll. You can use any bread of course, whatever you prefer).

Your favorite hot pasta dish (an opportunity to teach about al dente).

Cold pasta or potato salad.

We made butter from scratch. Also, whipped cream from scratch. Cheese from scratch. Meringue. I think children today almost never see these techniques.

Jellies and jams from scratch.

Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies (another opportunity for the history of the cookie).

A dish where you pound the chicken or meat, so they see that technique.

Julienne veggies.

Potatoes a few different ways. Au gratin, mashed, potato pancakes.

Cake and icing.

Pie crusts and pies.

For holidays you can teach some of the traditional foods for the holiday.

Maybe do an assignment where the kids bring in or teach about a dish made in their home that is a family favorite or part of their culture.

JLeslie's avatar

I just thought of one more thing—eggs. If you do a Lemon Meringue pie you can teach how to separate the eggs and then use the whites in the meringue and the yolks in the custard. If meringue and lemon isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other recipes that require separating eggs. You could also do boiled eggs and makes deviled eggs.

Now I am second guessing myself. I first thought we did this in 7th, but maybe it was 9th? Definitely jr. high.

Can you do a dinner or even just an appetizer/cocktail thing where all the parents come and try the food the class makes?

dappled_leaves's avatar

Regarding style, remember you’re teaching young people, and they’re not going to want your class to be full of note-taking, memory-dependent material. This should be fun! If you’re going to teach them any theory at all (like types of measurement, and the things found in @livelaughlove21‘s link), do it in the context of a real recipe that you’re making. That way, they’ll see the importance of whatever it is. If it’s not relevant to an actual recipe you’re making, don’t bother.

Do tell them there are all kinds of information they can google if they need it. Things like substitutions, what spices go with what dish, measurement conversions, etc.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree with @dappled_leaves the skills should be taught as part of making a dish. You can give them a sheet of terms to reference, but you don’t want to feel like there will be memorization and a test later. It should all be fun.

A few weeks ago I took a tour of the culinary institute in NY. It was great, a student takes you around and tells you about what the classes are like and what they learn. Then we ate at one of their restaurants on campus afterwards. If you have a culinary school nearby that could be a field trip idea. Or, even a field trip to a restaurant that actually cooks from scratch. If the kids are upper middle class that might be very usual for them, but if it is mostly fast food and chain restaurants where you live, a restaurant might work with you so they can see the kitchen of a large restaurant and also a low price on a three course meal. I guess now with reality shows like Master Chef and Hell’s kitchen that is not at big of a deal as it used to be.

CWOTUS's avatar

Oh, yeah. As others have been saying in different words, teach the skills in the context of “what are we making today?” Make things that they’ll want to make and eat again soon, and start from simple dishes / simple skills that can be recalled without even having to refer to a printed recipe. (I’ve known how to cook – and have cooked – my mom’s spaghetti sauce for over 40 years now, strictly from memory.)

Also teach them where they can experiment and improvise – and where they should not.

jaytkay's avatar

Wow, great for the kids, great for you! I am jealous all around!

A couple of ideas:

Have a vegetarian week. It will probably be novel to most of the kids and will open some eyes.

Budgeting is a skill everyone can use. A good resource is the downloadable cookbook Good and Cheap – Eat Well on $4 a Day by Leanne Brown.

Strauss's avatar

Thanks for all the great answers!

As it turns out, the offer to facilitate the cooking class was an error! When I replied, I accepted the position, pointing that, while I do have a skill set that would allow me to facilitate the cooking class, my true area of expertise is music. I received a reply saying, OK, our mistake, you’re co-facilitating the music program!

Again, thanks for all your input!

dappled_leaves's avatar

You should totally still teach them to make bread. :D

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