Last week our ECO Institute (Level 2) participants spent five days with NBNC Teacher/Naturalist Ken Benton and NBNC Staff Naturalist Sean Beckett in a natural history immersion for educators.  The group spent each day birding, botanizing, checking out local geology, learning forest trees, building fires, and covering a range of ecological content and outdoor skills tailored to the standards-based and proficiency-based requirements of each teacher’s school and classroom.

A big focus of the week was identifying and harvesting common wild edibles that are easily and *safely* incorporated into outdoor lessons. We strongly emphasize the importance of place-based teaching and learning, and there are few betters ways to build place connection than developing a “taste” for your backyard or local woods.

The culminating activity this week was our inaugural ECO Iron Chef! Contestants split into two teams and had 90 minutes to prepare a menu of dishes for judges sourced from wild ingredients, plus some kitchen staples (flour, sugar, baking soda, etc.). Contestants could cook over an open fire (of their own making), or using camp stoves. Both teams kindled fires, headed into the fields and forests, and produced some incredibly tasty results!

Here are the menus of ECO Iron Chef 2018:

 Team One:

Burdock and nettle field curry with rice and bitter greens
Steamed grape leaf dolmas filled with rice and ants
Maple candied burdock and apples [syrup produced from a nearby maple tree last February]
Fried milkweed blossoms and pods
Raspberry bannock bread
Chickoree bee-balm tea


Team Two:

Fried milkweed blossoms with steamed crayfish and field sorrel
Lemon balm and lamb’s quarters rice
Campfire-smoked raspberry cobbler
Powdered spruce needle bannock bread
Stuffed grape leaf dolmas
Raspberry bannock bread
Raspberry soda