Rachel Sear, a great friend of mine, finished a project last Friday for a class she took at MSU while earning her Masters in Experiential Education.
Experiential education focuses on experiences to connect learners to content.
For example, if students were to learn about bridges, they might visit many bridges to study them.
Pictured in the front row (left to right): Rachel Sear, Jeremiah Hartman, Madison Taber, and Alex Simmons. Back (left to right): Dalton Nelson, Jaren Allen, Mike Shores (class advisor) and Michael Weimern.
It's not necessarily hands on, where the students would actually build the bridges.
Here, Rachel took a group of junior high students from River Bend Academy in Mankato and taught them about cooking. She called this project "Top Chef Mankato."
This is "project based learning" and a form of experiential education.
American Lasagna by Madison Taber and Michael Weimern
4 C. cottage cheese
1 1/2 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
-26-30 oz. spaghetti sauce
4 oz. pepperoni
10 strips lasagna noodles
1-2 C. mozzarella cheese
9x13" greased pan
First, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Second, brown meat. Mix mozzarella cheese and cottage cheese in separate container. Drain the met. Put pepper, Italian seasoning, and the can of spaghetti sauce in the pan with the meat and heat it up. Lay five lasagna noodles on bottom of pan. Put half meat on top of noodles. Put half cheese mix on that. Lay five more lasagna noodles on top. Put second half of meat mix. Put second half of cheese mix on this. Put tin foil over this and place in oven to bake for one hour.
Country Goulash by Jeremiah Hartman and Alex Simmons
1 lb. ground beef
1 can (28 oz) stewed tomatoes
1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
2 C. fresh or frozen corn
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 C. cooked elbow macaroni
In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomatoes, soup, corn, green pepper, onion and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat' cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in macaroni and heat through. Yield: 6-8 servings.
Mexican Lasagna by Jaren Allen & Dalton Nelson
1 lb. ground turkey
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 (16 oz) can tomatoes, chopped
12 corn tortillas
2 C. non-fat shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C. non-fat egg substitute
2 C. shredded lettuce
1/2 C. chopped tomatoes
3 green onions, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown turkey' rinse in colander under hot water and drain. Add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, red pepper, salt, pepper and tomatoes. Heat through. Spray 9x13 inch pan with non stick spray. Cover bottom and sides of pan with half tortillas. Pour meat mixture over tortillas. Place another layer of tortillas over meat mixture and set aside. Combine cottage cheese, 1 C. cheddar cheese and egg. Pour over tortillas. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle rows of cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and green onions diagonally across center of casserole.
Makes 8 servings.
This was no ordinary cooking class.
Rachel wanted these children to learn all aspects of what ends up on the table.
She taught them where the food comes from and about sustainable agriculture, the nutritional value of the food and how this affects the body, and how to budget and feed a family with little money.
Therefore, math, science, environmentalism and health were related to real life experiences and the students learned how to take these skills and put them to use in the real world.
Rachel showed the students documentaries on sustainable agriculture.
They visited a local food coop. They cooked together some low-fat nutritious meals.
On the last week, the students who had divided into three groups were to present the entire school with a dish which could feed a family of four. It had to include a protein, two vegetables, and at least one Minnesota-grown ingredient. Furthermore, each dish had to be moderately low in fat and cost less than $15 to prepare. Each group met and even beat these requirements and presented the school with three delicious meals.
I was there, last Friday, when these three groups cooked their dishes and served them to the students and teachers at River Bend Academy.
I was immediately impressed with the enthusiasm and even passion each group exhibited while cooking and telling me about their dish.
Each dish was something they were already familiar with; but, with Rachel's help, more vegetables were added and substitutions like lower fat proteins were instituted.
Jeremiah Hartman cooked an amazing country goulash which his mother makes at home and this was the most nutritious and lowest calorie dish of the bunch.
Each student knew the answers to the questions Rachel would throw at them like why they used organically grown vegetables or why locally grown produce is important.
Madison Taber even brought some asparagus from her own garden and added it to her American lasagna.
I loved the creativity from the group who made Mexican lasagna using corn tortillas rather than lasagna noodles.
In the end, all of the dishes were incredible and tasted delicious.
They were judged by the students in the school; but, the results were so close that it was almost a three-way tie.
The two lasagnas were a tie with the goulash only trailing by a couple of votes.
I would have had a difficult time choosing only one of these.
Congratulations to each of the amazing students I had the pleasure to meet.
I had the best time getting to know all of you and eating the amazing food you presented.
If this is an example of how Rachel Sear plans to educate students, they are in for a real treat.
I wonder if these students realized how much they learned while having such a good time.