A Two-Wheeled Twist on Cooking Matters in Minnesota

A child in a cooking classWhat do you get when you combine cooking, biking and nutrition education with a dash of reading, writing and arithmetic and top it off with a generous portion of warm summer days? Simpleâ?¦ the best summer- school session ever! The University of Minnesota Extensionâ??s Cooking Matters program recently completed a six-week cooking-based nutrition education course with Mr. Tom McComasâ?? 3rd & 4th Graders from Richard Green Central Park Elementary School in Minneapolis. Minneapolis was recently named the #1 bike city in America, and Mr. McComas and his assistant Tim have lived up to that title. For the past five years, they have led a group of twenty-five 3rd and 4th graders on a city-wide bicycle expedition during summer school. This year, Mr. McComas wanted to make nutrition a bigger part of his course, so he started providing healthier snacks during the ride, and worked with us at Cooking Matters to teach his kids about healthy, affordable foods. Each week, students filled their water bottles, strapped on helmets and formed a single line twenty-five deep, led by Mr. McComas with Tim as the caboose. They were off! Making a beeline to the [Greenway](http://midtowngreenway.org/), the experiential learning began. Each week they visited a new destination, like a museum, the Red Cross, a community garden and a farmerâ??s market. The group traveled up to six-and-a-half miles away from school and back each week! The kids would ride, stop for lunch, explore and finally meet up with the teaching team who conducted the hands-on cooking and nutrition class (also held at different locations each week!). The team included volunteer chefs, Extension community nutrition educators and class assistants. Each Cooking Matters class began with a lesson and activities about a specific topic the boys and girls could relate to such as healthy foods that give us energy on a long ride, how fruits and veggies help heal cuts and bruises and the importance of drinking water, especially when we are active on warm sunny days. The kids were almost unable to contain their excitement as they awaited the cooking portion of class. Thatâ??s when Chef Carole or Chef Lauren would demonstrate how to prepare a recipe. The children would follow along with the recipe and participate with various tasks along the way. Often a sous-chef was selected to assist. The youngsters learned the importance of mise en place, and also how to pronounce and spell it. They learned measuring and knife-handling skills, and the CLAW! which is the proper way to hold items while chopping, with fingers rolled under the hand. And they learned manners. Chef Lauren always insisted on a please and thank you, napkins in laps and excuse meâ??s as needed. The course was truly a delight, and we look forward to working with Mr. McComas, Tim and the 3rd and 4th Graders of Richard Green Central Park Elementary School next summer! *Photo courtesy of Leanne Hersh*
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