Cooking On The River

Cooking On The River

Wed 13 Jun 2012

Story by Elli Chapman

Cooking in the Classroom for the 4th quarter was transformed into Cooking on the River! We traveled for four days and 3 nights on the San Juan River in Southern Utah. A trip with the non-profit organization Grand Canyon Youth was something for which my students had worked toward all school year. We began holding fundraising events in early November with family movie nights. Students served tables at The Wildflower Bread Co. restaurant and held an adult coloring contest. For community service, time was given to both remove invasive botanical species walking distance from our school, as well as help at the Flagstaff Family Food Center a block away from our school. The trip was planned for the week following the state standardized tests, to give the kids a bit of well deserved relief.

The Cooking Crew

Students on Grand Canyon Youth River trips are assigned to four different crews which then rotate daily for the performance of tasks within the following categories: Activity Crew, Cooking Crew, Dish Crew and Groover Crew. The Activity Crew is in charge of gathering all items in use from the Fun & Explorer Boxes. Breakfast and Lunch are made by the river guides, but dinner is made by the “Cooking Crew” of students. (Check out the fabulous pictures taken by our guide Tess- a river runner that majored in photo-journalism!)

Each evening, after the boats are secured at the chosen overnight river-shore, the guides unload the three metal tables which straddle the sides of the boats and serve as seating. The tables are stood up on the beach to create a fantastic kitchen with a great view of the river. While those of the “Cooking Crew” are at it, the “Dish Crew” cleans the tools used in the cooking process as needed.

On our four nights, the students made burritos, spaghetti, hamburgers, and macaroni and cheese. They cut up vegetables and fruit, made sauce, cooked meat and noodles, and set everything out buffet style for the guides and rest of the students to serve themselves. One student turned 14 on the second day of our trip, so students and guides secretly made a Dutch Oven birthday cake! After eating, each student takes their dishes to the wash table where 4 buckets are in a row for rinsing, washing with soap, and the final rinse, followed by sanitization with bleach water.

On the third morning, we had pancakes for breakfast. Our guide Kate, a river runner with a degree in fine art, exercised her skill of drawing with the batter. In honor of the student science education presentations on the different native species, she made snake, lizard and fish pancakes. After conquering the “8 Foot Rapid”, she served all the students the leftover pancakes, much to their appreciation!

Our guides J.P. and Tyler specialized in environmental science, anthropology and geology and led our group on fantastic beautiful exploratory hikes. On our first night we hiked to the top of Comb Ridge for a gorgeous end of the day. The next day we went to see Pueblo Ruins near a spring and agricultural area, our last night we went to the top of the Stairmaster trail and then explored down the other side to the part of the river we’d see the next day, which we marked with a willow branch monument.

There is so much appreciation to be expressed, starting with The Grand Canyon Youth organization here in Flagstaff, along with artist Shoto Begay, and the many local businesses that helped make the adult coloring contest happen with donated prizes. Kohl’s Cares provided associates to assist with our award night in addition to a sizable grant. The parents and grandparents of our participants provided the physical and emotional support they needed to take on such an uplifting and empowering experience.

About the author: Elli Chapman is a teacher of 7th and 8th graders at the Peak School, a charter school in Flagstaff, Arizona. She has lived in Flagstaff for 19 years, been a mother for 18, a vegetarian for 12 and teacher for 4. Her mission as an educator is to teach students to invest in themselves in all ways possible, and that eating, as a method used every day, is something over which they have tremendous power.


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