I’m trying an experiment with my daughters this week where I’m asking them to create a new project every day based on some simple ideas: they are participants, I am a very hands-off guide, they work together to do something worth while. They completed their first project today—Eat Your Yard—where they had to find edible plants in our yard, find/create recipes and build a dinner menu using them, and cook dinner. It occupied them the whole day and was a resounding success.
Feel free to use/modify the project I gave them below. I unveiled each new part only after they had completed the previous activities and we spent time while eating the dinner they made reflecting on the project and what we might do differently next time.
The girls sprung one welcome surprise on my plan: I was expecting them to find and follow existing recipes, but they instead created their own recipes from scratch. I’m encouraging them to record (at least) the more successful recipes, like the garden lettuce with basil and a lemon vinagrette, and the mango-apricot juice with blueberry icecubes.
Warning: While the project was largely self-propelled, cooking dinner took a full two hours with both 6 and 10 year-old chefs.
Eat Your Yard
The Eat Your Yard Project has five different parts. Participants should work together and help each other. Participants must complete each part and present it to Guide(s) before learning about the next part. Your Guide(s) may ask you to revise some of your work before moving on to the next part. Each Participant has to do every step in every part unless instructions say otherwise (for example, every Participant has to draw/paint their own pictures of at (at least) three plants). When instructions ask you to record your work, you may use any media you think best, including writing, drawing, painting, photography, video, sound, etc.
Part 1: Three Ingredients
- Identify common and Latin names for (at least) three edible plants growing in your own yard.
- Draw/paint a picture of each plant. Pictures should include names for plants and labels for plant parts.
- Brainstorm and record ideas for possible recipes using all three plants without using books or computers. Participants can work together to record all brainstorming ideas in a single document.
- Present plant pictures and recipe brainstorm to Guide(s) to revise or move to Part 2.
Part 2: What’s for Dinner?
- Use your recipe brainstorm to look in cookbooks and/or computer/Internet to plan a dinner menu that uses all ingredients identified in Part 1.
- Menu must include at least one main dish, one healthy, vegetable side dish, and one dessert. Each of these required dishes must include at least one ingredient from Part 1. Me nu may include other dishes/drinks. All Participants should agree on just one menu.
- Present menu and all recipes to Guide(s) to revise or move to Part 3.
Part 3: Harvest
- Make a single list of all the ingredients needed to make all the recipes in your menu. The list should include needed quantities and be organized by categories (for example, f ruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, grains, spices, etc).
- Using your list, record which ingredients are already available in your yard, in your home, and which are missing.
- Harvest any ingredients from your yard that will be used in the recipes for your menu.
- Present harvest and final list to Guide(s), identifying any missing ingredients. Revise or move to Part 4.
Part 4: Putting It All Together
- Prepare all recipes on menu with help from Guide(s).
- Record menu preparation steps.
- Set table for dinner. Decorate appropriately.
- Serve dinner for yourselves and Guide(s) and record presentation of all dishes.
Part 5: Eat Your Yard
- Eat dinner with your Guide(s).
- Discuss each dish. Would you change anything in the recipes? Would you make any of them again?
- Discuss all the parts of the project. Would you do anything differently next time? Did you do anything you have never done before? Do you have new questions?
- Discuss who you want to share the project with. What do you want to share? How will you share it?
- Clean up.