Why Cooking?When I tell my coworkers that we’re going to be cooking out in the cozy learning cottage again today, this is the question I get most asked. “Why are you cooking? Is that really rigorous learning?” I started cooking in my classroom because I needed to teach my students essential food vocabulary, and talking about actual food is the best way for them to retain that. We made fruit salad after reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, mixed trail mix to learn snack food words like pretzels and popcorn, and by then, we were all hooked. My students love cooking and ask regularly when our next cooking project will be. One of the unexpected bonuses of cooking in my classroom is how much it gets my students talking to each other. We usually make cooking groups or partnerships, and they have to read the recipe together, discuss how much of each ingredient they need, and even simply ask that their partner “pass the sugar, please.” It’s fantastic and realistic language practice, and it requires students to apply what they’ve been learning in my class. As my students have grown in their English proficiency, we have added more and more academic standards, including science and math concepts. I’ve found that they retain what we’ve learned through these collaborative learning experiences far better than any other lesson I could have designed.
So What Do You Do?
How Do You Integrate Content?Often we will do our cooking activity as a celebration of the end of a unit. For example, we make our pumpkin cake recipe at the end of a unit on pumpkins in the fall. Most of my students have never tasted pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, so after a week of studying how pumpkins grow, they’re excited to finally get to taste some. Other times I use cooking to explicitly address math and science standards about measurement. We compare amounts of each ingredient required, predicting which one is smallest first, then measuring them all out to check our guesses. Cooking has given my students an excellent understanding of the relative size of measurements of volume, which is a third grade standard in my state. We’ve also created experiments with some of our simpler recipes, testing if our fruit salad tastes different if you toss all the fruit in orange juice, or if salted popcorn vs. unsalted popcorn makes a difference in the trail mix. My students now always want to experiment with our recipes and write up the differences, which gives them a basic understanding of the scientific method. Cooking is a fun and engaging way for my students to apply what they’ve been learning, and it has fostered community and love of learning in ways I couldn’t have imagined in my classroom. If you’re looking to dip your toe into cooking in the classroom and try it out, I highly recommend the pumpkin mug cake recipe freebie above, or check out my blog or TpT store for other ideas. Bon Appetit!
Here is a different way to cook with kids that is kid-centered, fun, and very, very hands-on. Kids feel a sense of pride and accomplishment as they follow the recipes – often with little adult help to create something yummy. These recipes can easily be used with a whole class by setting up a cooking center and calling kids back a few at time. Click here to check it out!