SHERIDAN, Wyo. — Ask 10 Story schoolchildren to combine two large bags of chicken breasts with 200 ounces of broth, 10 cans of white Great Northern beans, green chilies, minced garlic and onion, and you’ll have the makings of one parent appreciation dinner for 40 hungry people.
Each Wednesday afternoon since the beginning of the school year, the Story Elementary cooking club has walked from the school to the Story Volunteer Fire Department kitchen to try a new recipe or two.
Led by Heather Johnson, Story School secretary, the kids have made waffles topped with peanut butter and maple syrup, a pumpkin roll at Thanksgiving, Rice Krispie treats, eggnog and sugar cookies for Christmas, muffins and cupcakes, homemade pasta, and miniature Easter baskets made of candy.
On a recent Wednesday, they made white chili, cornbread from scratch, and gooey “everything” cookies for their end-of-year parent appreciation dinner.
“I’m the one who loves to cook, and I thought, if I’m going to be doing an after-school program, I want it to be fun,” Johnson said. “The kids were very excited about it, and the boys were more excited than the girls were.”
As the children streamed into the fire department kitchen, they all seemed pretty excited.
“The chefs are here!” one exclaimed.
There are 12 K-5 students at Story Elementary, and the 10 in first through fifth grades participate in the club.
The parent-appreciation dinner will showcase how hard the kids have worked all year, Johnson said.
“We want the parents to see what the children have been learning, as far as setting a table and serving and just being able to cook,” she said. “I laminate recipes to take home in hopes that some of the parents will cook with their children. ... The dinner is a way to say thank you to parents.”
The fire department donates kitchen time to the students because there is no kitchen at Story Elementary.
“Luckily, we are allowed to use this building,” Johnson said. “They don’t normally let the public in here.”
The kitchen serves as a classroom, and Johnson often mixes school-day lessons into club activities. The kids did a unit on peanuts and grew their own peanut plants in the classroom. That week, they made homemade peanut butter to put on their waffles.
They also practice fractions when mixing ingredients or halving recipes.
“You can have fun while you’re learning,” fourth-grader Gavyn Kilburn said.
“I like the cooking and the eating,” third-grader Rikki Redman said. “I’ve learned a lot ... fractions, cutting onions. ... My favorite thing to cook is pumpkin roll. It was delicious. It was this roll that you start with like a flat sheet, and when you roll it, there’s spirals inside — it’s cream cheese frosting.”
Second-grader Jessica Quillen’s favorite was the eggnog and Christmas cookies.
“It was warm eggnog and the cookies were covered in sugar,” she said.
Fifth-grader Laura Stainbrook said she was excited to waitress for her parents. The students got to wear special new aprons made and donated by Janet Ludwig, owner of the Pinewood Cottage Quilt and Gift Shop in Story.
“They can see how hard we’ve worked, and they can see our aprons!” fifth-grader Jamie Schlegel said.