Report from Northfield, MN – the founding Young Chefs chapter

Graduating Carleton College senior Kharmen Bharucha elegantly recounts her experiences during her last semester leading the Young Chefs program at the local middle school in Northfield, MN.

Last term at Northfield Middle School, instead of using lesson plans that covered different science topics every week, we decided to teach a series of protein-themed lesson plans. These included: Puffy Pancakes: The Science of Foams; Caramelizing Catalysts: Exploring Catalysts Through Caramelized Onions; Do Curds Just Want to Be Cheese? No Whey! Exploring Enzymes Through Homemade Burrata Cheese; and What’s the Deal with Eggs?: Demystifying Heating and Whisking Eggs.

After four weeks, the Young Chefs were familiar with protein structure, amino acids, foams, denaturation, enzymes, and catalysts! These are complex topics that merit months and months of study. The repetition seemed to help the students be more comfortable learning new science concepts. Furthermore, the spacing effect stipulates that learning is greater when studying is spread out over time. We saw this in action! The students seemed to remember more and more after each week. For example, during our first introduction to proteins, students knew that muscles were made of protein. We discussed that proteins are made of amino acids. During week 2, during a recap of the material we had covered last week, we asked students what proteins are made of. Some, but not all, students remembered that proteins are made of amino acids. During week 3, most students were able to remember that proteins are made of amino acids. We think that spacing out the information helped reinforce the concepts with the students. However, since each lesson plan addressed a different aspect of protein science, the students did not seem to be bored by the material. It is really important to us that our students are engaged while learning science and have positive associations of it. Having a lesson plan theme helps us accomplish our goals of teaching students science and making it fun!

If you are interested in leading a series of lessons with a scientific theme, view the “Curriculum Overview: Standards, Skills, and Connectivity” document at https://youngchefsprogram.org/educators/teaching/ and consult the Lesson Plan Grid: Culinary and Scientific Concepts. This is an excellent resource that displays which lesson plans address the same scientific concepts. For example, you could lead a science theme of starch gelatinization (bisque, risotto, tart); pH (caning salsa, pickles, cookies); sensation, perception, and taste (umami, chilies); density and emulsions (salad dressing, smoothies); physical and chemical changes (popcorn, chocolate, ice cream, cheese, salad dressing, onions, and pancakes). Regardless of whether you lead Young Chefs with a theme, we hope you have a good time and look forward to hearing about your experiences!

img_0901

Volunteer training for East Boston YMCA collaboration

Yesterday we worked with the amazing volunteers who will be leading this semester’s ten-week afterschool program at the East Boston YMCA teaching kitchen. Led by teaching kitchen director Alexis Daniels, this program will introduce Young Chefs lessons to Boston  youth in both Spanish and English. Young Chefs visionary advisor and Harvard PhD student Vayu Maini Rekdal is helping build the curriculum and train volunteers. More updates will be available soon – read more about the collaboration here:

https://youngchefsprogram.org/2016/12/11/young-chefs-partners-with-east-boston-ymca-in-cooking-and-science-afterschool-program/

 

IMG_1774.JPGIMG_1775.JPGIMG_1777.JPG

Young Chefs and Harvard Ed Portal collaborates to pilot curriculum in undergraduate mentoring program

This past fall, Young Chefs partnered with the Harvard Ed Portal to bring the cooking-science curriculum to students in Boston.

The pilot collaboration was launched as part of a new addition to the Ed Portal’s undergraduate mentoring program, which connects Harvard undergraduate mentors with children and youth from grades 1-12. Approximately 30 Harvard College undergraduate students serve as Ed Portal Mentors each semester and these undergraduates mentor students in subjects as diverse as math, science, writing, and the arts. Young Chefs and the Ed Portal have previously worked together in science-cooking summer programs. Piloting a cooking-science program during the semester seemed like a natural way to extend the opportunities for learning into the school year.

The initial pilot this past fall of 2016 included Harvard College mentors Tina Huang and Ellen Jang-Milsten, who led the program, as well as five student participants who embarked on a semester-long culinary and scientific journey. Through weekly classes, students engaged with some of Young Chefs’ most exciting lesson plans, including the science of pancakes and foams, ice cream and phase transitions, pretzels and chemical reactions, starches and soups, smoothies and density, and chocolate and crystal formation. Young Chefs co-founder and Harvard PhD student Vayu Maini Rekdal supported the implementation of the curriculum, while Susan Johnson of the Harvard Bok Center for Teaching and Learning supervised the undergraduate teaching and curriculum at the Ed Portal.

The program was a huge success and will continue in the spring of 2017. While Young Chefs lessons are the basis of the experiments and concepts that students engage with in the program, the undergraduate mentors have brought their unique perspectives and skills to adapt to the mentoring setting. For example, instead of using traditional lab notebooks, participants used yellow stick notes and the white board to communicate their hypotheses and results. Students enjoyed writing on the white board and the mentors also found it helpful the experiment was drawn on the whiteboard and then students filled in what was happening at each stage.

In addition to adapting the teaching style and materials, the undergraduate mentors changed some of the lesson content to better fit within the time constraints of the weekly classes. A key trick for the mentors was to read through whatever lesson plan they would use and then cut things out or add content as appropriate. For the mentors, it became noticeable easier to adapt content after the first couple weeks because the students’ needs became clearer. For example, in some lesson plans mentors added a game because that seemed to help the students learn better.

After a successful first semester, the program has clearly provided exciting learning opportunities for students, mentors, and the people behind Young Chefs alike.  We are excited to see this program grow into the future and improve and expand the implementation of Young Chefs lesson plans!

Blog post by Vayu Maini Rekdal, Young Chefs co-founder

portallogotag_300dpi_350

 

Young Chefs Welcomes New Advisory Board Member

We are excited to announce that Worthy Cho, former Young Chefs treasurer and volunteer for three years and graduate of Carleton College ’15 has joined the advisory board.

young-chefs-webpage

Director’s Financial Analyst at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, DC

Worthy Cho graduated form Carleton College in 2015 with a bachelors degree in Economics. From a young age, Worthy has had a passion for cooking and baking that persist till today. She loves the opportunity that Young Chef’s provides for individuals to give back to their communities and connect with students through food. Worthy aided in launching the Young Chef’s program at Carleton College, and currently serves as a strategic adviser on the advisory board. In this role, she creates comprehensive solutions and implements innovative strategies with the goal of establishing the Young Chefs brand. She most closely identifies with cauliflower as her vegetable personality.

 

Young Chefs partners with East Boston YMCA in cooking and science afterschool program

We are excited to announce a new partnership between Young Chefs and East Boston YMCA. Spearheaded by Alexis Daniels (Director of East Boston YMCA Teaching kitchen, director of Community Partnerships for Parachute Teachers, Teaching Fellow/Research Mentor at the Tufts REACH lab) and Vayu Maini Rekdal (Harvard PhD student and Young Chefs co-founder), this collaboration will connect the unique Young Chefs curriculum with the resources and leadership of the YMCA to bring science and cooking education to Boston Youth.

Specifically, Alexis Daniels and volunteers will lead two five-week cooking and science classes for students enrolled in the YMCA afterschool program during the spring semester, exploring everything from the molecular basis of spiciness to the microbial metabolism and ecology. The lessons will take place in the YMCA teaching kitchen, an amazing facility teaching culinary skills and healthy easting to East Boston families, teens, adults, and seniors, as well as to youth in their after school programs.  They grow food in their community garden that is used in our kitchen, and work with the local farmer’s market, and a local farmer, to promote the use of fresh, sustainable produce and community supported agriculture. The classes will be taught in both Spanish and English, and  Vayu will support the implementation and evaluation of the lessons in this new context.

We are excited to get this started in Boston! Please email ADaniels@YMCAboston.org if you want to get involved!

 

Flyer-YoungChefs_Sp2017_Draft.png

Young Chefs/Kitchen Garden Laboratory at Harvard

by Vayu Maini Rekdal

Had a great time working with Bill Yosses showcasing our work with Young Chefs Program: From Cooking to Science and Kitchen Garden Laboratory in front of 300 people at Harvard University. These public lectures are what first inspired my thinking around cooking, science, and education, so it was a true honor to be up there on Monday. Thanks to those who made it!

Lots of interest in what we do! Lots of inspiration for the future!

 

Young Chefs at South by South Lawn!

Visionary advisor and co-founder Vayu Maini Rekdal was honored to be invited to present Young Chefs Program: From Cooking to Science at Barack Obama‘s South By South Lawn at The White House. Alongside Bill Yosses, Jose Andres and Green Bronx Machine he demoed of some of Young Chefs cooking-science lessons, and presented our vision for the future as part of the “SEED to STOVE exhibit”. The night concluded with a discussion on climate change between Barack Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio. What a wonderful celebration of art, ideas, and service. Thanks to all the people in Young Chefs who have taken us this far, and thanks toHarvard University for funding.

Young Chefs in Boston and Cambridge: A Summer of Learning

As we previously mentioned in a blog post, we continued our collaboration with the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Harvard Medical School this summer for a second round of Young Chefs curriculum implemented through their outreach programs. Like last summer, the programs were spearheaded by Frank Mooney, a recent college graduate and Math Teacher who brings his expertise and love for math to the kitchen. Young Chefs co-founded Vayu Maini Rekdal acted in a supporting role, providing feedback and suggestions for implementation of the curriculum. 

50-70 Elementary and middle school students in the Allston, Cambridge Community Center, and Margaret Fuller House programs (funded and supported by Harvard SEAS) have attended weekly classes all summer, learning about everything from density, emulsions, and chocolate, to hummus and salsa.

In addition, Frank Mooney organized activities for high school students part of the Native American Summer High School Program. Run through Harvard Medical School, this program brings students from the Fort Peck (Montana) and Hopi (Arizona) reservations to engage with scientific learning in a college setting. The student learning is structured around a case-based curriculum, where students will engage with science of various problems that they face in their own communities, including obesity and addiction. 

The cooking and science portion of the program ran for four days and focused on the role of microbes in human nutrition and food production. Lessons included Hummus, Salsa, Salad Dressings, and Chocolate, interweaved with activities and homework focused on nutrition and human physiology.

We are so grateful to Frankie Mooney, Harvard SEAS, and Harvard Medical School for putting our curriculum to use in such meaningful settings. We are excited to continue our collaboration long into the future!

All photos published with permission of Frankie Mooney:  

20160630_161001IMG_1232IMG_1244IMG_1254

Getting back to bases

IMG_5356.jpg

When Young Chefs was founded at Carleton College, we wrote and tested lesson plans through and independent study course. These original lessons have stood the test of time (or at least a couple years), but we haven’t stopped looking for new ways to bring science into the kitchen!

Currently underway is a lesson on homemade pretzels. Our Curriculum Coordinator, Laurel, got interested in this topic when she realized we don’t usually talk about using alkalines in the kitchen. Acidic ingredients are common and identifiable, but where are the bases? Are they even relevant for cooking?

For pretzels, the answer is absolutely yes! Pretzels are made by boiling dough in a basic solution (either lye or baking soda + water) before baking. The negative charges in the base hasten browning in the dough, and the sodium molecules deliver a distinct savory taste. This is where we get the color and flavor of a pretzel’s crust!

To try pretzel rolls at home, check out our recipe in the Kitchen Experiments [link] page of the For Students section. You can make the process quick and easy by starting with store-bought biscuit dough.  

Laurel turned her batch of pretzel rolls into a sandwich spread with mozzarella and roasted red pepper, curried chicken salad, and flank steak and arugula.