A Typical Edible Schoolyard Family Nights Out Class
Kitchen Classroom
Place of Learning: 

ESY Berkeley Teaching Staff
Edible Schoolyard Project
Berkeley, CA

A typical Family Nights Out class at the Edible Schoolyard Berkeley runs from 5:30pm to 7:30pm on weekday evenings. The basic format of an FNO class mirrors a typical kitchen class. The biggest difference is that during Family Nights Out classes we prepare an entire meal. The experience of cooking and eating dinner together is core to the program. Participants in our Family Nights Out classes range in age and kitchen confidence. Our classes are flexible and adaptable, appealing to students, parents, toddlers, and grandparents alike.
Entering the Kitchen

As participants enter the kitchen, we welcome the families and have each person put on a name-tag and sign a raffle ticket. There is a bowl of seasonal fruit by the door for people to snack on. Because parents get off work at different times, and have to commute from various places, most participants trickle in over the course of the first 15-30 minutes.

At the Chef Meeting​ (10 minutes)

The Chef Meeting is where we introduce our menu for the family class. We typically prepare three recipes per table, and menus reflect what the students are currently learning in their regular kitchen classes. A standard Family Nights Out menu contains a balance of grains, vegetables, and protein.

  • Introduce the staff and the menu for the evening. Review basic kitchen rules and systems.
  • Explain why each recipe was chosen for the class (i.e., simplicity, nutrition, cost, etc.) and how each recipe contributes to creating a balanced and complete meal.
  • Emphasize the kitchen skills and life skills in each recipe and discuss possible variations on the menu.
  • Address how to use the leftover ingredients in other recipes (i.e., what can you make with leftover beans? How can you use extra sweet potato?)
  • If applicable, discuss budgeting issues and cost effectiveness.
  • Take questions
At the Table

After the Chef Meeting, participants wash their hands and break up into three cooking groups. If possible, keep family members together. Cooking groups should have an average of 10 participants. Each group is led by an Edible Schoolyard staff member or high school intern. 

  • Review the recipes and introduce knife skills and cooking methods (5-10 minutes): Demonstrate how participants are going to prepare each ingredient on the platter. Identify the various tools that can be used depending on the age, skill level, and confidence of each cook. Break down the steps of the recipes and explain the cooking jobs.
  • Check-in and assign cooking jobs (5 minutes): Have each participant answer a “check-in” question (i.e., What’s your favorite recipe to cook at home?). This can be a fun or provocative question that may or may not have anything to do with food, but will allow the families to get to know each other. Have the participants identify the cooking job(s) they would like to work on for the evening.
  • Cook and set the table (60 minutes): Participants review the recipes together before breaking up into their cooking jobs. Encourage everyone to taste as they cook and adjust the seasoning along the way. When the participants are done preparing the ingredients and the food is still cooking, participants clean and set the table. We typically use dinner plates, silverware, cups, and napkins, and, like in a regular kitchen class, participants are encouraged to create a unique centerpiece using flowers from the garden and other interesting items they find around the kitchen.
  • Eat (20-30 minutes): Since the families prepare an entire dinner, the Family Nights Out classes allot more time for eating and conversation. This is also a great opportunity to discuss modifications of the menu and possible adaptations for the recipes.
  • Clean up (5 minutes): When the meal is winding down, we talk about how the cleanup process will work. We have participants bus their own plate, cup and silverware to the bussing station, a group will start to work on washing dishes, while others clean the tables and cooking stations.
  • Closing / Something Sweet (5 minutes): Once most of the clean up is done, we ask all participants to make a circle around the middle table and hold our raffle. Raffle items are mostly donated items, and range from Edible Schoolyard t-shirts, harvested items from the garden, oils, and sauces to cast iron pots and pans. We pass around a try of seasonal fruit and dates while everyone shares something sweet about their experience in class.
Family Nights Out Survey

We ask parents to provide feedback via a short survey of yes/no questions. 

  • I have a greater understanding of what my student does and learns at the Edible Schoolyard
  • I feel more connected to the King community after attending the Family Nights Out classes
  • I learned new techniques, skills, or recipes that I am excited to bring into my kitchen
  • I learned something new about my student’s eating habits and preferences
  • I enjoyed the process of cooking collaboratively with my family
  • I am excited by how confident and competent my student was in the kitchen.
  • I am more likely to trust in my student to cook and help cook at home.
  • I am more likely to cook collaboratively with my family in the future.
  • I would be interested in attending another Family Nights Out in the future.
  • I would recommend Family Nights Out to friends and family.
  • How was your experience with using the registration lottery system Any comments. thoughts or feedback about your experience at Family Nights Out?