Updates from founding chapters in Northfield, and Faribault, MN

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Young Chefs started at the local middle school in Northfield, MN, by students at Carleton College. The program soon expanded to another middle school in Faribault, MN, and today, the two programs are running stronger than ever. Recently, another program was added: a hands-on gardening program; funded by Kitchen Garden Laboratory, this gives students the opportunity to grow food and continue the learning process over the summer. The programs serve youth from under-served communities, and is run by 20 undergraduate volunteers from Carleton college. These volunteers not only teach science and cooking in weekly lessons, but also build meaningful mentoring relationships with the students, inspiring them to succeed in the kitchen, classroom, and beyond.

We reached out to the directors of the programs and checked in how things are going. Here are the latest updates:

Gardening Program

As the first official year for the Northfield Middle School garden program, it’s been an exciting one and we are continuing to learn! In the Fall and Winter, we focused on cooking classes, each with a garden connection. Highlights include a Shiitake mushroom kit paired with mushroom pizza, tacos with ingredients that will be grown in the garden, a pasta competition with a mystery vegetable that will also be grown in the garden and a fieldtrip to Farmhouse that included pancake making. Now that spring is upon us, we are turning our attention to the garden! For our first class a few weeks ago, students learned about the different parts of plants that we eat and also participated in a germination activity. This week, students weeded, added topsoil and made a variety of dips– hummus and salsa! Looking ahead, we are excited to start planting soon and are also hoping to organize a garden kick-off party like last year!  by Erin Roth, Carleton ’16

Faribault Middle School Young Chefs

Winter term in Faribault brought a group of new students, lots of culinary creativity, and experimentation with using worksheets instead of lab notebooks to record observations during each lesson. We began with using fractions to adjust recipes for cupcakes and frosting to make the correct amount for the class, then explored olfaction with spiced nuts. Our students loved making the nuts extra spicy and we had to be careful so people didn’t snack too much before we were finished! The next two weeks we brought back the density lesson with smoothies, which they continue to remember, and protein coagulation with meringues. Our last week we had a culinary competition with breakfast foods, which resulted in amazing vegan, cornbread pancakes, smoothies, egg scrambles, and parfaits. The worksheets worked well to get students to record hypotheses and observations from every lesson.
During spring term in Faribault we have had largely the same students that were there in the winter which has allowed us to push the kids in their cooking and science abilities.  We started off the term by creating yogurt parfaits with granola and cooked fruit.  Students were given different fruits to choose from and ended up creating poached pears, fried and battered bananas (including an egg free one created by a student who is allergic to eggs), and pears cooked with brown sugar.  We then added in the science component, talking about oxidation and food waste the next week by looking at the browning of potatoes in the Oxidizing Potatoes lesson plan.  The students created different potato pancakes with browned and unbrowned fruit and realized that the resultant taste is the same.  We students also used their culinary creativity skills to create their own variations on sour cream and cucumber raita.  This week we talked about starches and made risotto, observing different levels of gelatinization in different rices.  The science was easy to see and the students immediately picked up on what was going on.  All of the students loved trying the different risottos made with different vegetables and rice. We are excited to bring them on a field trip to Carleton at the end of a term to do a science experiment, extracting dye from M&Ms in the Carleton Chemistry lab with Dr. Deborah Gross!

by Eric Tallman ’17

Northfield Middle School Young Chefs

During the winter, we transitioned to using worksheets for the students to record their ideas about the science and observations of the cooking. As always, we were able to explore a diverse range of cooking skills and science concepts. We started by letting the students to develop their recipe-reading abilities by having them mathematically manipulate the portions of recipes cupcake recipes. In another lesson, they learned about the sense of smell and chemical receptors through making spiced nuts. Later, they examined density by making columns with smoothies and juices. One week, we had a guest lecturer come in and talk about gluten and gluten intolerance. The final week was a cooking competition in which they got to use their culinary creativity to construct breakfast dishes.  Spring term in Northfield has started amazingly well. The students pay attention during the science lessons and are willing to try whatever we make that week. Our students also seem to have a good grasp on what a hypothesis is and some simple scientific concepts such as density we have gone over, along with an enthusiasm for the cooking! Our first week back we made healthy dessert parfaits, making three kinds of cooked fruits and having our students share each of their creations. Then, we talked about oxidation and eating browned food by making two kinds of potato pancakes, some with potatoes that had been set out for a couple hours. We were impressed with how fearless they were when frying and everyone loved the results! This last week, we took on risotto and talked about starches and what makes risotto with arborio rice creamier than Jasmine rice. They were very interested in making comparisons between preparing risotto and rice that they had made at home. We are excited to bring them to Carleton at the end of a term to do a science experiment, extracting dye from M&Ms in the Carleton Chemistry lab with Dr. Deborah Gross!

By Rebecca Fairchild, ’16

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