Conestoga news

May 23, 2024 12:18 PM

Conestoga hosts elementary students for Stem Den contest

On May 2, Conestoga’s Waterloo campus hosted Stem Den, a competition that attracted four local Grade 3 classes participating in Good in Every Grain’s STEMterprise curriculum.

Conestoga hosted elementary students and representatives from Nutrition for Learning at the Stem Den contest on May 2.

The curriculum, delivered in partnership with Nutrition for Learning, was studied by over 500 students across Waterloo region over the past year, and focused on the basics of agriculture, science, math and business.

“Our Stem Den partnership with Good in Every Grain and Conestoga College helped students deeply connect with where food comes from and so much more,” said Erin Moraghan, Chief Executive Officer, Nutrition for Learning.

“Nutrition for Learning’s primary role is to help bridge the hunger gap during the school day, ensuring every student has the food they need to learn. We also know that for youth to feel empowered with their own well-being and develop a sense of wellness autonomy, a connection to the bigger picture of food is critical.”

The final project for STEMterprise centred on a presentation for a granola bar. Each class was divided into groups of two to four students who developed and sent Nutrition for Learning a video that explained the nutritional and culinary breakdown of their granola bar, as well as a business and marketing plan for the product.

Stem Den invited two finalist entries to present their granola bars in a “Dragons’ Den-style” pitch to a panel of local food innovator judges who selected a winner based on the presentation of the product, as well as marketing, pricing, packaging, and business plan for the granola bar. Taste was also considered, as the students provided samples of their creations.

"Hosting the Grade 3 students and sitting on the panel for the Stem Den competition was a great event for me and the team to be a part of. They really did put a lot of effort and consideration into their pitches,” said Dan McCowan, executive chef of Bloom, Conestoga’s student-run restaurant.

The winning pitch focused on a safari theme, and targeted kids by branding each bar separately with a different safari animal and facts about the animal on the individual packaging. The winning team will spend a day at the renowned Langdon Hall restaurant, hotel and spa in Cambridge, where they’ll be joined by the finalist as well as the two runner-up teams.

In addition to hosting the pitches of the two finalists, the event also welcomed their entire classes from Clemens Mill Public School and Saginaw Public School, as well as the two runner-up groups and their classes from Central Public School and Monsignor Haller Catholic Elementary School. The day was filled with activities for the 75-plus students that included baking soy energy bites and touring the college’s state-of-the-art culinary facilities at the Waterloo campus.

“The students had a great time and loved the tour of the campus, asking lots of questions about the culinary and baking labs. I wouldn't be surprised to see some return in the future as culinary students,” added McCowan. 

Moraghan also commented on how the day was not only educational, but highly inspirational for the young minds.

“The team at Conestoga provided these students with the chance to learn how to get creative with nourishing whole foods, and exposed them to the incredible creativity and opportunity within the agri-food, hospitality, food production, and culinary spaces. We loved seeing 75-plus kids leave campus feeling energized about new post-secondary and career directions they never knew were possible.”

Joining the students for the day were five teachers and educational staff, as well as 10 parent volunteers.

“We’re proud to host this fun and educational event, and we greatly value the opportunity to partner with organizations that share our passion for food and learning,” said Brad Lomanto, chair, School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts.

“That we were able to illuminate the minds of a new generation just adds to the significance of events like this, and our aim of introducing our program and facilities to the broader community.”

Conestoga’s School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts is a leader in culinary and hospitality programming that prepares students for successful careers in Canada’s tourism industry. Students learn from faculty members with extensive industry experience as they develop practical knowledge and theoretical skills. The Waterloo campus is home to its state-of-the-art culinary skills labs and student-run Bloom restaurant.