This past week I have been celebrating the last cooking clubs of the year! It’s amazing how fast time has flown by since the start of the school year. Reflecting on this past year of after-school programming, some numbers ran through my head. I have taught over 150 students in cooking clubs, making over 20 different recipes. All total, I have spent over 70 hours with these students. Over 200 copies of recipes were printed and sent home to families.
Numbers, however, don’t capture the whole story. It’s been amazing to watch their curiosity grow. I have seen reluctant students turn into adventurous tasters. I have witnessed older students take ownership and help plan future recipes. I have seen kids remind me how we start each club, going through the ritual of hand washing and playing our name game. Most importantly, I have been humbled by the power of food to bring students together. As soon as I walk in the door, I am greeted by a chorus of questions. “ASHLEY!” “WHAT ARE WE MAKING TODAY?” “My friend wants to do cooking club, can he join?” “Hey, when are we making my recipe?”
At times, the clubs have been overwhelming. When you put ten little, excited bodies in a room with multiple step recipes, chaos often follows. Despite the mess, students always enjoy the end product. They love being able to make their own food and then share with their peers, parents, and staff (we often give out samples).
To celebrate the end of our cooking clubs at East Elementary, we choose the recipe that receives the most requests: fruit pizza! The ten students made a whole-wheat honey crust, whipped up their own frosting, prepped the fruit, and crumbled graham crackers on top. The result, while crumbly, was delicious! As I watched the students prep the strawberries (a crowd favorite), wash berries, and mix the crust, I felt reflective and sad. I will miss this next year. I will miss the chaos, the chorus of hellos from excited students, and I will miss the happy faces smeared with the fruits of their labor. Most importantly, I will miss the relationships I have been able to build with students and staff. While I won’t be teaching these classes next year, the memories I made along the way will stay with me. That is a sweet ending to a great year.