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Wood-fired pizzas at St. Stephen’s Primary School, Bath

May 25, 2009

On Friday 22nd May, 60 children (9-10 year olds) at St Stephen’s Primary School in Bath learnt how to make pizzas from scratch. I went along to help out and thoroughly enjoyed the day. I was impressed by how smoothly it went. This was a great example of  how, with imagination, cooking can be a valuable part of children’s learning in all sorts of ways.

The monkey pizza group with mascot

The monkey pizza group with mascot

The pizza project

Working in groups of 4, the children had been working on this project all week: designing their pizza toppings and making their own pizza boxes using folded card and plenty of colouring pens. The cooking rota, penned up on a whiteboard, helped the day run like clockwork and the children were incredibly well behaved (absorbed by the task, they just got on with it).

Pizza box designers

Pizza box designers

Chopping mixed herbs from a home herb garden

Chopping mixed herbs from a home herb garden

One boy had brought in herbs from his own herb garden; others had very determined ideas about exactly where their olives and circles of mozzarella were going; all had prepared well.

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Homemade oven

Homemade oven


Being a progressive school,  they didn’t use a normal kitchen cooker but instead built their own oven outside in a grassy bank – complete with its own chimney (a hole in the top of said bank). Group by group, children carefully carried their pizza down the school’s landscaped field to the oven where they watched, captivated, as it cooked.

One group designed a monkey pizza

One group designed a monkey pizza

This unlikely-looking cooking device proved the star of the show and produced really professional pizzas complete with wood aromas, and crispy crusts (and a certain amount of charcoal). There were a few teething troubles – we had to prop up the baking racks with flowerpots to prevent the base cooking too fast and occasionally rush to halt the progress of sliding pizzas with sticks.

The cat pizza group

The cat pizza group

By the end of the day we had around 16 large pizzas. Some looking as if they’d come straight from a traditional Italian restaurant; others were carefully designed to look like a cat, a monkey or the Italian flag.

The grand finale: a pizza sale

An Italian flag pizza and handmade promo materials

An Italian flag pizza

The pizza sale

The pizza sale

The groups set up shop in the playground with hand-drawn price tags and posters, to sell slices of pizza to parents (they had worked out the ingredient costs and were doing some pretty nifty marking up!).  Meanwhile in one of the classrooms a slide show allowed parents to see highlights of the day.

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Cooking in school

Active Kids 'Get Cooking' scheme

Active Kids 'Get Cooking' scheme

In an ideal world all schools would have a teaching kitchen so that all children would learn how to cook and how to enjoy experimenting with ingredients and techniques. Thanks to Jamie Oliver highlighting the dire state of our nation’s school food and cooking abilities, cooking is now firmly on the agenda in education, but we still lack the facilities.

Some of the children pictured are wearing special Active Kids ‘Get Cooking‘ aprons. This is a national initiative run by the British Nutrition Foundation (sponsored by Sainsbury’s) to encourage cooking in primary and secondary schools. But what is needed is more government and local authority funding: Ed Balls signed off on £150 million funding for new kitchen teaching areas in 170 lucky schools – but we need more.

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