Maker Monday: Wood Fired Pizza!

For the second summer, we are offering a series of maker programs for ages 8-18. While we don’t have a dedicated maker space, we do have a strong desire to convert library resources into a temporary maker space each week and amazing community experts willing to share their knowledge and craft. These programs are way to much fun to not do because of a lack of dedicated space. In fact, I’m slowly trying to make the whole library a maker space in varying degrees. Don’t tell my coworkers… Just kidding! They are maker fans, too!Starting-From-Scratch-cover

Our two hour pizza making session was inspired by the book Starting From Scratch (Owlkids Books, 2014) by Sarah Elton. The book covers everything from the science of cooking, our sense of taste, cooking tools, and how to read a recipe in a friendly format for kids 10 and up. I love to cook and introduce kids to good food, so when I received the book I immediately knew we needed to make food this summer. I just wasn’t quite sure how to make it happen so I stewed on it for awhile.  Then, a friend came to mind. He has a mobile wood fired oven and loves the library so I emailed him with my crazy idea- let’s make pizza at the library! He said yes, because he likes crazy ideas too, and really it wasn’t that nutty. There were nuts though.

My friend (and a couple of others) handled the oven while I focused on the science of making pizza and the how-to. The session began with a quick video showing a 7 year old doing cool tricks while tossing pizza dough. I then asked the crowd of almost 70 why could he do that? There were actually some really cool responses that had to do with the physics of tossing dough, but no one spoke up about the magic of gluten. So we spent a few minutes going over the ingredients in dough, the reactions that take place during pizza making, and what each ingredient does. The pizza dough was made beforehand, but we had all of the ingredients on hand to showhow it all works.

Have you listened to the Science Friday episode Food Failures: Knead to Know Science Behind Bread? It’s worth listening to!

After dough, we talked about toppings, what everyone likes on pizza, and the building blocks of taste. We even discussed super tasters and terroir as it relates to cheese (and chocolate, wine, coffee, etc.). Both ideas fascinated the crowd of mostly 8-14 year olds.

Then it was time to make pizza! We had a large group packed into a meeting room with two large tables. Since the room is carpeted, we laid out a big plastic tarp to avoid a long clean up. On the two tables we had a variety of ingredients (identical on each table). Each person washed their hands at the sink and were then handed a small ball of dough. They could roll out the dough with a rolling pin, use a crank my friend brought, or try the method I saw on the America’s Test Kitchen video A New Way to Work with Pizza Dough.Pizza Oven

Next came the toppings. I challenged everyone to try something new, even if it was only on half of the pizza. Most created pizzas beyond the expected pepperoni and cheese. We only had 4 peels, so a mom quickly came up with the idea of flouring a paper plate for each person and letting them top their pizza on the plate instead of waiting for the peel. Then they could go outside to wait for the peel and their pizza’s turn in the oven.

IMG_0203Once outside, pizza makers waited in line for their turn. Everyone was surprisingly patient. Fortunately the weather was excellent. It didn’t hurt that everyone could watch the dough rising as the fire did its magic inside the oven.  We also had sampling table so some pizzas could be cut into sharing bites.  Most people ate their pizzas outside on the grass or under the entryway’s overhang not far from the oven. All of the library visitors were curious about the oven and what we were up to!

Materials: (for 50-60 personal size pizzas)
mobile wood fired oven
any pizza dough recipe

flour for dusting peels and tables where dough is being rolled out (so dough doesn’t stick to surface)
1 Costco size jar of pesto (with brushes for putting on pizzas)
chopped walnuts (3 oz)
mozzarella (5 lb)
parmesan (3 lb)
fresh chopped spinach (1/2 bag)
sautéed, onions (cut into rings before cooking) (1)
sautéed, slided mushrooms (1 small box of crimini)
sautéed, sliced peppers (2)
slided ham, sliced (1 pkg)
well-drained pineapple chunks (2 cans)
tomato sauce
3 rolling pins
1 dough roller
1 dough docker (for removing air bubbles in dough, if handy and desired)
tongs, spoons, ladles, forks etc for serving
measuring cups and spoons for demonstration
bowls/containers for toppings and dough making demo
pizza cutters
tool for cutting balls of dough from mass (in Alaska, many of use an ulu)
paper plates
paper towels and/or napkins

Family: Taste & Smell

During the summer my preschool storytimes become family storytimes, including not just the 3-5 year olds, but also the 6 & 7 year olds. I do this by incorporating lots of STEAM elements and multiple activity stations so there is something for most, if not all. Here’s what I did this week during the first EXPLORE Family Storytime of the Summer.

This week we explored the senses of taste and smell. To get the ball rolling, we talked about all of the senses and what we use them for. To do that, I brought along a beautiful book which helped us talk about parts of our body and what we use for each sense.

Book: Cold, Crunchy, Colorful (Millbrook Press, 2014)
We “bookwalked” our way through Jan Brocket’s latest title in her Clever Concept series. The books in this series introduce concepts exemplified by real-life objects or activities well-known to many preschoolers. This title demonstrates how we use five senses to interpret the world around us and is a good starting point for talking about how friends might compensate for hearing impairment or blindness. The book uses clear, eye-catching photographs and simple text to encourage kids to observe the world around them.

Book: Dragons Love Tacos (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012)
Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri teamed up to offer kids a silly story about dragons and their love for tacos, but not tacos with spicy salsa. This book is a crowd pleaser, even for those who have read it before, not because it is a mesmerizing story, but most likely because of its ridiculous premise (dragons eat tacos? No way!), the presence of the beloved dragons, and the whimsical illustrations. We had fun exploring this book as a group, even discussing the senses of taste and smell in regards to tacos and dragons, and kids had lots to say.
Movement:  Making a Purple Stew
I sang the first verse of this old favorite using the color purple and then had kids call out colors for additional verses. By the third verse everyone was making stew.
Making a purple stew, whip, whip
Whip Whip Whip (pretend to stir a huge bowl, circular motion with arms)
Making a purple stoobie-doobie-oobie-doobie
Purple potatoes, and purple tomatoes and (pretend to throw things in from over your shoulder) 
And even a purple you! (point to a child)
Credit: Scout Songs (This link includes one version, but I sing a modified version I learned somewhere else)
Book: Bear Wants More (M.K. McElderry Books, 2003)
We have quite a few fans of Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s rhyming bear books! The lovable critters are fantastical, especially to Alaskan kids, but offer opportunities to talk about hunger, taste, hibernation, and of course what bears eat (and don’t eat in this book). While many of these animals would not be found together as friends in the wild, the large format graphics envelope the reader, drawing us into the sweet world of unlikely companions, even if just for a few minutes.
Movement:  Pop Corn by Mr Kim Webster (2004)
We pretended to make and be popcorn during this song. It repeats so the first time I demonstrated the actions and the second time, kids (and adults) joined in. Here are the actions: pretend to pour oiling the pan, move imaginary pan back and forth over stove, pretend to pour in popcorn, use fingers to outline grin and smile, squat on floor and shake hands at sides, move slowly up to standing as Kim sings the word “sizzle,” dance to pop by pushing hands into air, then out to sides, and turn in circles, jump, or free dance. I played this song on my iPhone with portable speakers.

After making imaginary popcorn, it was time to make real popcorn! I brought my friend’s air popper to show kids how it worked and to talk about what happens to turn kernels of corn into popcorn. Want to know more about popcorn science? Visit the popcorn website! (It’s all about the water.) Just plugging in the popper was interesting, but once the corn started to pop kids actually started to jump! I popped enough for each child to have a small cup at the tasting station (see below).

Smelling Station
I got the idea for this station off of Science Friday. (I try to listen to the show as much as possible for general interest sake and for good program ideas.) During the Scientists Test What the Nose Knows (3/21/14) episode, Andreas Keller tested Ira Flatow’s sense of smell by asking to him to smell three different samples and to then identify which two are the same. While Ira was given samples with multiple elements, I gave kids simpler smells. I left the experiment the same otherwise.

I put several drops of an extract on a cotton ball and placed it in a dixie cup. It was obvious which cup held which scent, but I marked the cup underneath just to be sure. Each child had three cups in front of them. Two of them were the same and one was different. The child smelled each of the three and then selected the two that smelled the same. We had multiple scents so a child could test their sense of smell multiple times if they wanted to.
dixie cups
cotton balls
extracts (vanilla, banana, almond, peppermint, orange)

Tasting Station #1: Popcorn
I took the large bowl of popcorn we popped over tot he tasting station where kids could season it with salt, nutritional yeast, or cinnamon/sugar. The original idea was to have the kids take the popcorn home and eat outside the library, but that didn’t really work out. I ended up doing a little vacuuming afterwards.
small plastic bags
nutritional yeast
cinnamon/sugar mix (1:1)

Tasting Station #2: Apples vs. Potatoes
I thought I would need a fourth station so I added this one, but it was not very popular and I would exclude it next time. The idea is to have kids use their sense of taste (minus sight and smell) to determine if the white food in front of them is apple or potato. To do this, kids take a bite sized piece of apple/potato and eat it while plugging their nose and closing their eyes. It is designed to show kids how much we rely on multiple senses to taste the food we eat.
1 apple, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 plates
something to put the chewed bits of potato into (kids will want to spot out the potato!)
Credit: Science Kids

Food Stamping Station
As always, I included an art station. I’ve stamped with food at home with my kids and as a volunteer in classrooms. It was time to paint with fruits and veggies at the library. It’s obviously not a new idea and lots of examples can be found online. For more ideas for a food storytime and food stamping visit Sturdy for Common Things.

Fruits and Veggies for Painting

At the stamping station, kids found cut fruits and veggies, paint, and paper. I showed them what I created, but they needed no encouragement and quickly got started testing out the different painting tools. Many kids also used their fingers to add more depth to their paintings.
paper plates (for paint)
washable paint in various colors (I used 3 per table)
cut veggies and fruits (I used a green pepper, an orange, a scallion, a mushroom, and an apple)

Here are some of the results: