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(A favorite)
In my school, each teacher and staff member who works with the 8th grade heads up a "Magnet" -  a sort of Advisory group, though that doesn't exactly describe it accurately. Each Magnet is built around a particular interest - Nature, Technology, Social Activism, etc... - and students have to apply and interview to get into the Magnet of their choice. The idea is that each student ends up with one or more adults in the building who knows him or her really well and can act as an advocate or as a spur to staying on top of work.

My Magnet is the Food Magnet.

After several years of trying different Magnet themes with varying degrees of success, I stumbled on an interest that 14 year olds and I actually share in common - a love of, and passion for Food. (Though not generally the same foods.) Over time, we've developed an activity we call "Tastings".


 
 

For the past three years, my advisory group, the Food Magnet, has sponsored a competition among the other 8th grade magnets in our school. It is based on the television reality show Top Chef and is called the "Slow Fire" Challenge.

On the tv show, in each episode, the contestants are provided with a set of odd ingredients or outragious conditions and are given half an hour to come up with a dish to present to a guest judge. The winner of this "Quickfire" round gets advantages that help him or her later on in the show.

We give the other magnets a week or so to come up with their dishes, so we call our competition a "Slow Fire".

Our rules are simple - create a dish using ingredients we choose and present it to the Food Magnet for judging. After a LOT of deliberation, my magnet decided that this year's ingredients would be chili peppers and some sort of fruit.

We judge each dish according to the Iron Chef criteria:

Each judge can award up to 10 points per dish for its flavor, 1-5 points for its appearance and 1-5 points for its originality and use of the theme ingredients. This year, there were eight students judging and they asked me to judge the dishes as well, so each dish could earn up to 180 points.

Here are the results:

 

 

 

The Food Magnet is proud of the competition and the other 8th graders are proud of the dishes they produced. Feel free to leave comments for them here or on VoiceThreads.