Today we had our solar cooker competition at school. It was fantastic, and even the weather cooperated! I was so proud of my students and how well built their solar cookers were. They were also so creative! The menu items were amazing, and the only ones that didn’t really cooperate were the cookies, but I suspect if we left them out until around 5 intead of 1, they would have cooked through.
It was an exciting day that started with setting up the solar cookers in the morning. Throughout the day, I was surprised how many of my students I spotted skipping their free time to go check on their cookers. Many had even agreed to keep an eye on their friends’ cookers, even though it was a competition. When someone’s cheese sandwich mysteriously disappeared from their cooker, another group jumped to volunteer some of their extra food. It was really touching to see all of my students getting along, working together, giving suggestions, and helping eachother, even though it was a contest.
I specifically didn’t give bonus points as awards. Advanced students can be cut-throat when it comes to grades. I should know, I was one of them. Instead, I gave “surprise” prizes, and students didn’t know what they could win until the end, but they did know prizes were not grades.
Teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, and former students were judges. They walked around, spoke to the contestants, and sampled the food. Then they made the tough choices between s’mores and chocolate-covered strawberries, mexican dip and pizza bagels, clam chowder and steak.
In the end, there were lots of ties, since the choices were so tough. The awards and the winners were as follows:
- Best Appetizer- tie: Clam Chowder and Mexican Bean and Cheese Dip
- Best Main Course- Steak and Potatoes (I was shocked when the steak was not only cooked, but well-done!)
- Best Dessert- Chocolate Fondue with Strawberries, Pretzels and Marshmallows for dipping
- Best Design and Construction- A parabolic design used to make Cheese Quesadillas
- Green Award (for use of recycled materials)- tie: Cheese Quesadillas and Chili Con Queso Dip
- Most Creative- tie: Chocolate Fondue and Cheese Quesadillas
- Hospitality Award- Cinnamon Buns (they didn’t cook all the way through, but the icing and the smiles made up for it)
- Smarty-Pants Award- Cheese Quesadillas (for demonstration of understanding while talking to the judges)
And finally, the Grand Prize was also a tie!
- The Cheese Quesadillas in the parabolic cooker. This wasn’t a surprise after they won 4 other awards!
- Rice Krispies Treats with Chocolate Drizzle. These ladies melted the marshmallows, butter, and chocolate, then assembled them right before the judging. We were all surprised by their creativity!
After announcing the awards, I told my classes what they had won. Each winner got to choose a seed packet from a wide variety of vegetables and flowers. The Grand Prize was a stylish reusable bag for each member of the group. Acutally, since it was a tie, I didn’t have enough and I’ll be picking up two more bags. My kids were delighted with these prizes, and I was so happy to not be giving out junk.
The judges went on and on about how knowledgable and friendly my students were. So did the teachers that brought their classes by to visit. All in all, it was a wonderful day and I was so incredibly proud of the 63 kids that participated. Many of them mentioned that they planned to cook something for their families this weekend, or that they’d like to make modifications and try again. As I’ve said before, these kids really do give me hope for the future of our environment.
If you’d like to build a solar cooker, as many of the teachers said they’d like to try with their own children, visit SolarCooking.org for a wide variety of information, plans and recipes.