Learning with Lil’ Sprouts: Pasta Salad
How best to keep a dozen kids grades K-4 engaged in a cooking class? I ask myself this as I start my first semester teaching two classes with Lil’ Sprouts. The answer, it turns out, is not to plan a class around all the foods kids say they want to cook (cheeseburgers, cookies and French fries are regular requests) but rather to plan a lesson that keeps each student occupied and working with their hands throughout the class.
My philosophy for teaching is less watching and more doing. Today we are making pasta salad. Each student will chop their own vegetables, herbs and cheese and make their own dressing. I pass out the ingredients for chopping one at a time, which allows the students to focus on cutting one item before moving on to the next. Students learn how cutting a tomato is different from cutting a pepper. Everyone cuts their food a little differently. Some cut meticulously and chop their items as small and uniform as possible. Others forego uniformity and cut their food into mosaics. Remembering that Lil’ Sprouts is not Le Cordon Blue, I dole out praise regularly and encourage my students to make something they are excited to eat. Perfection is not the goal. We are here to foster a lifelong interest in cooking and eating nutritious foods while simultaneously having fun.
Students are eager to contribute their skills and excited to share their existing knowledge of cooking with the class. They share what they have learned to cook at home and what kind of food their family members like. As the noodles cook, students take turns stirring the pot. Who likes the smell of cooking noodles? I ask and every hand in the room goes up. Next, each student makes their own dressing, incorporating olive oil, vinegar, mustard and lemon juice. At the end of the lesson, everyone’s pasta salad is a bit different: some chunky, others rustic, some heavy on the cheese, others full of cherry tomatoes. When the cooking is
complete, it’s time for the best part of the day: eating. Finally, the room gets quiet. Students swap bites of their creations, savor a tangy noodle and write down today’s recipe. As class wraps up, the students eagerly ask: what are we making next week?!
Recipe: Pasta Salad
Pasta of choice
Cherry tomatoes (about 2-3 per student)
Mini sweet peppers (about 1 per student)
Cubed cheese (about 2 cubes per student)
Fresh herbs of choice
Vinegar of choice
Lemons, precut into 8 slices
High quality salt
Fresh cracked pepper
- Pass out vegetables to students, one vegetable type at a time.
- When vegetables are chopped, pass out herbs and have students tear using their hands.
- Next pass out cheese and have students cut into smaller pieces.
- While students chop, cook the pasta. As the pasta cooks, have students come up to the
pot, one at a time, and stir. Assist students with stirring as needed and supervise.
- Once items are chopped, have students each prepare their own dressing.
- Help students pour olive oil, vinegar and mustard into their bowls. Allow them to hold
the bottle and count out loud for them to two or three so they know when to stop
- Pass out pre-cut lemon slices and have students squeeze lemon into their dressing.
- Pour salt into student’s hand and have them add salt to their bowl.
- Have students add their chopped ingredients into dressing, pass out pasta and
sunflower seeds for topping.
Post by Meredith Kaufman, Lil’ Sprouts Instructor