A few weeks back we had the opportunity to join (our Chef/Activist/Food Hero/ Friend) Joshna Maharaj and 15 of her awesome friends at her “Growing Tastebuds” workshop. Joshna has special guests join her to teach 8-12 year olds 8-weeks of cooking classes and the virtues of slow food, farmers market and the importance of our food system.
We made pickled beans with the group – each child brought a jar home to try.
Rather than a blow-by-blow of the class, here’s some of the things we learned that might help others lead a similar class (I’m not sure I’m the most qualified as we have no children but here’s what we learned):
- Lots of adult hands help. We had 4-5 adults assisting the group of 15. ‘Assisting’ wasn’t hands on – just watching, encouraging and helping ensure they were having fun.
- Be prepared for some one-on-one needs for attention (multiple adults helped with this). It helps if some know all the kids, I imagine it could be trickier if some only knew a few (i.e. a parent).
- Stay light on facts. It’s not time to lecture for 25 minutes about how the process works.
- Ask lots of questions. I learned that we preserved because “Next year is 2012 and the world is going to end.”
- Keep it simple. Pickled beans are high acid and pretty difficult to mess up. This isn’t time to play with a preserve that’s marginally acidic.
- Give them practice jars. This buys lots of time and lets them get their hands all over everything before the ‘real’ deal.
- Boil water before everyone gets there. If you think it takes a long time for water to boil – it takes even longer with 20 people watching it.
- Bring LOTS of produce. I didn’t account for beans that would be dropped – or the amount that were eaten!
- Ask who’s preserved before. Almost half the class had some form of experience with it; most were really excited about beans.
- Have optional spices. We offered chili flakes – surprised by how some were very excited about this.
- The most important piece of equipment is a Sharpie marker. Each child wanted to have their SPECIFIC jar; the sharpie markers on the labels lasted through the water bath and each got to keep their own.
- If possible, keep the jars. Since this is a weekly program we let them know that the jars were too hot to take home and they would get them next week. While this was partially true, it also allowed us to check the seals (note: if you can’t keep the jars like this, have copies of instructions for the parents).
- Make it epic: we told everyone that they couldn’t open the jars until New Years. They were disappointed – and excited.
- Have a place that they can watch you pour the hot liquid into the jars. Each wanted to see the brine fill their specific jars.
- We had 3 hours and the adults had trimmed the beans in advance. We could have finished in 2.5 hours.
- Have fun with them – and it was a lot of fun.
- Have something for them to do when the jars are in the waterbath.
It was a great class, a lot of fun and felt really good to be a part of.
What would you add to the list?