We were making pesto, simply for the reason that a co-worker had offered up her surplus basil. Thursday afternoon we had plans to work with the art teacher creating pinwheels for peace, in preparation for International Day of Peace this coming September 21. Instead of working in the art room, I'd arranged for us to work in the classroom so I could pull a couple kids at a time to prepare the pesto while everyone was coloring their pinwheels.
We ended up with a ten minute window after math groups and before the art teacher arrived. The basil leaves sat in a large bowl, stripped off their stems by student volunteers during snack that morning. I quickly packed them down into a measuring cup and showed the class that we had three cups of basil, and the recipe I was using called for two. How could we adapt the recipe? It cracked me up to hear kids suggesting that if we had an extra cup of basil, we should use an extra cup of everything else, too.
A more adventurous teacher might have let the class try this experiment, but I was looking for good-tasting pesto results! Here was a real world opportunity for some multiplication, division, and fraction work. I showed them my thinking that we needed to do a 1 1/2X recipe, instead of doubling it or something else. Kids quickly picked up on the procedure for increasing ½ cup of parmesan to ¾ cup, and so on. When we got to the number of garlic cloves, one student asked what a garlic clove was.
Fifteen minutes later, the art directions had been given. Guess who I called over first to help me peel the outer skin off the garlic?
Last Thursday I tried to teach my students a whole host of concepts and skills. You can never be sure which ones will stick, but I'm pretty sure that from here on out, that one student will know what someone's talking about when they hear “a clove of garlic.”
It's no Mr. Holland's Opus, but for now, I'll take it.