New cooking class in Hayden is 1 part fun, 1 part education |

New cooking class in Hayden is 1 part fun, 1 part education

— For two hours Wednesday evening, the cafeteria at Hayden Elementary School appeared as though it were prepped to become the set of a new cooking show.

"I think this should be really interactive," Hayden nutritional services director Steve Carlson said before he and a group of eight teachers started to prepare a big, healthy meal as part of a new cooking class.

The class is designed to be one part education, one part fun.

Sure, there were charts and graphs and empty soda bottles that shockingly showed exactly how much sugar was in each of them. But there also were plenty of jokes, hands-on cooking lessons and opportunities for eight educators to get to know one another a little better.

In the first installment of the four-week course, the teachers learned cutting skills, cooking skills, shopping skills and also how to more easily cook healthy meals in the midst of their busy lives.

The impetus for the course is serious.

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Kristi Brown, the new health and wellness coordinator for the Hayden School District, said a recent biometric screening of district staff, which was done by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, showed that many staff members were overweight.

Brown also talked to the teachers enrolled in the course about troubling nationwide trends.

“If you looked at 1990 statistics, there were no states with 15 percent of their population listed as overweight," she said. "Fast forward to now, and there aren’t any states that are under 15 percent. Many are at 30 percent or above. That’s a problem."

The trend of obesity in the school district spurred the new cooking course that is funded by LiveWell Northwest Colorado and a Healthy Schools Successful Students grant.

To maximize the impact, Brown worked with Carlson and CSU Extension agent and nutritionist Karen Massey to put together the meaningful lessons.

The teachers also go home every week with a healthy portion of a healthy meal.

Massey started her presentation by telling the teachers she wasn’t as interested in lecturing them about the importance of nutrition as she was about giving them new tools and techniques to help them shop and cook better.

"Usually, the challenge is making it all happen," she said.

As they chopped onions, fennel, bell peppers and other items, teachers said they already were finding value in the course.

"I have some time to do something I’ve never done," middle school math teacher Michelle Wilke said. "It’s a chance to get away from school and the kids for a few hours. You get some you time."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10