Website review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2021

Pilot Light

Cross-curricular learning baked in to relatable, food-related lessons

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Grades
K–12
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Health & Wellness, Communication & Collaboration

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Pros: Easy-to-follow, detailed lesson plans are super relatable and have opportunities for school-to-home connection.

Cons: Lessons require forethought and preparation to extract their full value.

Bottom Line: These free, food-based lessons successfully span subjects and encourage connections to home.

Teachers can use Pilot Light in any grade as a fun and relatable way to mix food education with other, more traditional subjects; the lesson plans include plenty of grade differentiation. Teachers can browse or search the website's offerings for material, or they can filter by grade, integrated subject, or Food Education standard. The lesson plans come complete with all links and resources provided and have step-by-step instructions on what to do, along with full recipes for the relevant dishes. Some of the lessons include informative videos, but many include a fair amount of reading, so younger students would do best with a hands-on guide.

Use the templates to make your own lessons, and keep track of your favorite lessons from the account profile page. Because the lessons are thorough, you can pick and choose from the resources and activities to make it work for your classroom. Extend learning with other experiences; for example, take kids to an apiary or have them create their own waggle dances for a lesson like "The Angles of Honey Bees."

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Pilot Light is a free food education curriculum that integrates food-based lessons with traditional classroom education. It includes both activities aimed at parents to do at home with their children and lesson plans for teachers to implement in the classroom. The teacher resources include thorough lesson plans that connect food with different classroom subjects, such as math, reading, writing, and science. Lessons include Common Core and state standards, vocabulary, activities, readings, anchor texts, and step-by-step instructions for the food experience, some with multiple options. The resources also include a printable placemat, lesson templates, and take-home activities.

The family resources include lessons in both English and Spanish, Family Meal videos, vocabulary, readings, and recipes to prepare together. Combine Lentil Soup with Common Core Reading, Granola with Common Core Writing, or Polenta with Mushrooms and Greens with Common Core Math. Parents can mark resources as favorites or share their experiences on social media. They can also go through the Common Core Connections section and learn the vocabulary related to the activity and do the readings together with their children. Then discussion questions and extension activities encourage participants of all ages to get involved. No account is required to access the family resources. The site also includes a section about community advocacy, where students can explore how food issues such as food deserts, food insecurity, childhood obesity, and nutrition affect communities and families.

Pilot Light's materials are an excellent recipe for integrating learning into the everyday activities of preparing and eating food. Students will connect food and nutrition concepts to lessons in reading, writing, math and measurement, science, health and nutrition, history, cultural awareness, and the environment. Since everyone eats, food education easily demonstrates to students how these lessons are useful outside the classroom. From adjusting recipes for different numbers of servings to learning where food comes from to improving student nutrition, Pilot Light can help students develop healthy relationships with food. But the classroom lessons go beyond using pizza for illustrating fraction concepts: They touch on topics like sustainability, the hardiness of crops, farmed vs. wild-caught fish, and more. Plus, the lessons are thoughtfully constructed to get at higher-order thinking skills.

Additionally, parents and families are brought into the activities by preparing meals with the students at home, reinforcing lessons and adding accountability. Students will also learn alongside their parents with the family lessons or take-home activities from school, which allow parents and children to create memories and shared learning experiences together. Additionally, while preparing the recipes with their families, students will learn many food preparation techniques, and possibly expand their taste palate. Because these are just static PDF lessons with links, there's still lots of prep to do. And while there are plenty of interactive, hands-on activities in the lessons, they're just ideas on paper until the teacher makes them happen. So, if you're looking for excellent, free materials that you're ready to execute, Pilot Light is a great find.

Overall Rating

Engagement

The lesson plans, in the hands of a motivated teacher, provide plenty of hands-on opportunities, context for learning, and memorable experiences. 

Pedagogy

These lessons connect reading, writing, math, and science to hands-on activities revolving around food -- a familiar staple in every student's life -- so the learning will stick.

Support

Most of the available resources are in the form of extremely detailed lesson plans with readings and videos included, but there are no supports around accessibility or languages other than English (for the classroom lessons).


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