Read the latest updates on coronavirus from Harvard University. For SEAS specific-updates, please visit SEAS & FAS Division of Science: Coronavirus FAQs

News & Events

Science on a plate

Undergrads adapt popular SEAS cooking course to teach Cambridge children

By Christina Pazzanese, Harvard Gazette | Press contact

At a youth center in Cambridge, Harvard students bring science into the kitchen. Harvard junior Bonnie Lei (left) and Dennis Friendly-Akers compare the composition and taste of various dairy and non-dairy milks. (Photo by Melanie Rieders)

How do you get a bunch of middle school kids interested in science and nutrition? Disguise your goal as a pizza.

Harvard College juniors Marina Chen and Bonnie Lei hit upon the idea of taking on one of the more daunting classroom challenges — encouraging education in science, technology, engineering, and math — while sitting in the dining hall at Kirkland House talking about food and one of their favorite courses, “Science & Cooking.”

The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ (SEAS) wildly popular course hosts renowned chefs such as Ferran Adrià and David Chang to discuss and demonstrate scientific principles such as spherification and fermentation as they occur in restaurant kitchens, engaging students who might not necessarily think of themselves as “science people.”

Chen, a baking enthusiast, and Lei, who spent a semester studying the genetic underpinnings for the microbial terroir of cheeses at the Dutton Lab at the FAS Center for Systems Biology, immediately saw the course’s potential to reach even younger students through the international language of food. So when SEAS began a two-week summer program for middle school children in 2012, the pair approached the faculty about extending that trial.

“We were like: ‘Why don’t they do this all year long?’” said Chen.

Thus was born “Food Lab for Kids,” a weekly after-school version of “Science & Cooking” for fourth through eighth graders in Cambridge at the Area IV Youth Center near Central Square and at the Russell Youth Community Center in Fresh Pond. Chen and Lei do the curriculum and teaching, along with a team of eight Harvard undergrads and two graduate students, and with help from a nutritionist from Whole Foods, which supplies course ingredients.

Read the entire article in the Harvard Gazette

Topics: Cooking

Press Contact

Paul Karoff