Celebrating Our New Nation (A July Fourth Connection)

This 4th grade end-of-unit celebration highlights our national holiday.

Course Outcome
Why do we celebrate July 4th? How do you celebrate this day… with fireworks, friends, family, and BBQ? This was the initial question proposed to my students. Many know this day as “independence day”, but their knowledge stopped there. Therefore, as we began to dive into our “building a nation” unit, this question hovered over the lesson. Naturally, we learned of the pressures placed on our country by Great Britain’s King George III, the taxes, and conflicts that followed. Each event that led to the Revolution was a domino falling; another match being struck lighting the fuse that would begin the war! As the kids researched, responded, and shared their feelings about these important historical events, it became clear why July 4th was a momentous day in our nation’s history. For over two months, my fourth graders organized their learning in their interactive notebooks, yet the unit of study was coming to a close quickly. I soon realized I could do more to celebrate the end of our unit and our newly independent nation! Rather than celebrating the typical way… why not celebrate our first independence day like the colonists, now Americans, would have done? Thus the idea was born. 

End of 4th grade unit: Celebrating our new nation 

ELA-4.RI.KID.3, 4.RI.IKI.9, 4.SL.PKI.4, TNSS 4.03, 4.04, 4.05, 4.06, 4.09, 4.10

Learning Target 1: Students will connect, compare, and contrast the foods eaten during the colonial celebrations during modern day celebrations. 

Learning Target 2: Students will identify and practice real-world skills that are required during the cooking process.


With the help and expertise of a local chef from Main Street Meats in Chattanooga, TN, together, we blended the learning found in the classroom with skills necessary to work efficiently and effectively in the kitchen. These skills would later transfer to real-world practices that would be the backbone for any career. Students had the opportunity to work hands-on to prepare recipes that would’ve been typical at that time in history. As my fourth graders prepared the celebratory meal, reflection questions were posted around the culinary lab to guide conversations and deepen the learning. At the end of the lesson, their responses were recorded, shared, and discussed by the whole group. 

Reflecting Questions: 

  1. Using what you know about living in the colonies during the 18th & 19th century, why are these recipe selections a great representation of the times?
  2. How are these culinary selections different from our modern day “celebration” foods? How are they the same?
  3. What skills did you practice today, in the culinary lab, that would be necessary in any career/job? What did you do? Explain. **Skills listed below** 









Anytime I cook with my students, it is so beautiful to watch their excitement as they apply their classroom content knowledge beyond the typical formative assessments. They push their boundaries of learning. Many of my students have never had an opportunity to prepare meals in a kitchen or simply sit together around a dinner table. Don’t forget, this wasn’t just an activity to close out the social studies unit of study. It was an opportunity to teach my students the importance of working in the kitchen; food is the ingredient that brings people together. 

Recipes used in the lesson 

Appetizer: Salmon Cakes
Main Course: Vegetarian Chili 

Dessert: Molasses Cookies

Drink: Hot Tea *I used Earl Grey, no sweetener* & Apple Cider

Optional: Homemade bread with homemade butter
(I used a bread maker due to time necessary for bread to rise) 

Salmon Cakes
-Intermediate skill recipe-
Serves 12 (one fully patty per student) 


  • 3 (5-ounce) cans pink salmon, drained
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small potato, softened, and grated 
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 ½  cups Panko breadcrumbs, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of Old Bay seasoning 
  • Cooking spray 


  • Mixing bowl
  • Fork
  • Spatula 
  • Microwave 
  • Griddle or cast-iron pan
  • Cutting board 
  • Grater/ Mandolin 
  • Knife 
  • Stove or hotplate 
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cups 
  • Serving plate/ cooling rack


  1. Gather the ingredients & materials.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, flake the salmon with a fork. Add the finely chopped onion, green pepper, grated potato, parsley, Old Bay, salt, and pepper; blend thoroughly.
  3. Add the mayonnaise and mustard. Blend well. Add 1 cup, to make the mixture thick enough to shape into about 12 small patties.
  4. Roll the patties in the remaining breadcrumbs to coat thoroughly.
  5. In a large heavy skillet, griddle, or cast-iron pan over low heat, spray with cooking spray. When the surface is hot, add the salmon patties. Fry patties slowly on one side until browned. Turn the patties  and fry them until browned on the other side. Serve and enjoy!


Colonial Day Molasses Cookies

-Beginner skill recipe-
Serves about 15 (one cookie per student)


  • 3/4 cup butter, grated
  • 1  egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp.ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 cup sugar for rolling


  • 2 mixing bowls: one medium, one small 
  • Electric beater
  • Spatula 
  • Grater/Mandolin 
  • Oven 
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cups 
  • Cooling rack
  • Non Stick Foil
  • Baking Sheet


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter, egg and molasses together.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon , ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.
  3. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat until smooth and well combined. Form dough into 1-inch balls (about size of a walnut). Roll in granulated sugar. 
  4. Place sugared cookies on a nonstick-foil lined baking sheet. 
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until done. Cool on wire racks.

Vegetarian Chili
-Beginner skill recipe-
Serves about 15 (about 1/3 cup of chili per student) 


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup mild or medium tomato salsa 
  • 1 can of corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can puréed tomatoes 
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



  • Soup pot or large pot  
  • Cutting board & knife for garlic 
  • Stove or hotplate 
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cups 
  • Wooden spoon
  • Ladle 
  • Bowls 


  1. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high. Cook salsa, corn, garlic, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and garlic powder, stirring, until fragrant and slightly reduced, 1–2 minutes. 
  2. Add black, pinto, and kidney beans, tomatoes, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Reduce heat to medium and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally. Chili will thicken after about 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Enjoy!



Homemade Butter
-Beginner skill recipe-



  • Whipping cream or heavy cream 
  • Salt 





  1. Pour heavy cream into the churning jar or mason jar, filling it half-way full. Do not overfill past the half-way mark. Screw the lid on tightly so there are no leaks.
  2. Churn the crank/ shake vigorously for approximately 10 minutes. After a few minutes, whipped cream will form. Keep cranking/shaking until you hear that a lump has formed inside, and keep churning/shaking for an additional 2 minutes after that. You should clearly see that the fat solids have separated from the liquids. The amount of time it takes will depend on how vigorously you are able to churn/shake the butter.
  3. Spread on homemade bread or hardtack. Enjoy!


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