Pilot Light supports PreK–12 teachers with food-integrated, standards-aligned curriculum and professional development.
We believe in honoring and uplifting each and every teacher’s unique teaching style, skills, and methods while centering the students’ experiences. Pilot Light eLearning and classroom lessons are developed by teachers for teachers to be integrated into existing curricula and provide a holistic scope of food education for all students.
Lessons are often developed in collaboration with chefs and the Chicago community (and beyond) and are intentionally aligned to Common Core Standards, Next Generation Science Standards, and Pilot Light’s own Food Education Standards (Wondering what we mean by food education? Check them out!) These lessons build upon students’ existing knowledge and skills. By using food as a lens for the lessons they are already teaching in traditional school subjects they are already covering, teachers are empowered not only to adapt our curricula but also to encourage students to learn about food through food.
Inspired by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move, Chefs Move to Schools” campaign…
Pilot Light began in 2010 when four Chicago chefs—Jason Hammel, Paul Kahan, Matthias Merges, and Justin Large—wanted to give back to their Chicago community by teaching students about food through food.
They collaborated with educators and other experts to develop a unique Common Core-aligned Food Education curriculum that teaches students where food comes from, how it grows, and how the choices they make affect their bodies and the environment. The first lessons were delivered in a single Chicago public school, where the model was tested and honed.
With an emphasis on serving the South and West Sides of Chicago, Pilot Light expanded to serve six Chicago public schools in 2016. To more deeply invest in and learn from teachers, we launched the Pilot Light Institute for Food Education, which provides professional development to a larger number of teachers and thereby reaches a larger number of students with food education.
In the decade since Pilot Light was founded, we’ve grown, listened to, and learned from our teachers, their students, and their communities, and we’re still on that journey. As we continue along this journey, we are grateful to be growing and learning through our second year of the Food Education Fellowship and Food Education Center, both in their second year, as well as our Teacher Professional Development sessions (more to come in 2020), and, more recently, our literacy-based eLearning lessons and family lessons with accompanying Family Meal videos.
In partnership with you, our school and community partners, and our team, we are elevating the field of food education and advancing health knowledge and behaviors. During this time of remote and homeschooling, our virtual lessons can have an even broader reach. We have already expanded to East Palo Alto, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Orlando, FL; and New York City, NY.