Today’s guest blogger is Michelle from What’s Cooking with Kids. She’s prepared an excellent post that details the many ways you can incorporate cooking to your teaching toolkit and how you can make it interdisciplinary!
As a teacher, you are busy. Swamped, in fact. You might even be so overwhelmed with content standards, district mandates, and department politics that you are reluctant to try a new teaching strategy. But what if I told you that integrating cooking into the classroom would save you time in the long run? What if cooking with kids motivated them to participate more in class, to learn better eating habits (making them better learners), and integrated perfectly with the content you are already teaching? It sounds too good to be true – but it’s not!
I know, I know. You have some concerns. Everybody does. Cooking in the classroom takes some extra planning. But as an educator, you are good at logistics. It doesn’t have to be hard. In my many years of running a cooking school for kids, I frequently coached teachers on cooking strategies to implement with their students. You could set up cooking stations that kids can rotate through – the way you currently manage centers. Or you can have students working in table groups and completing the steps simultaneously. The cost of ingredients can be quite manageable if you simply have the students prepare tasting-sized portions. Or, if you have generous parents in your classroom, they can donate additional ingredients, and you can turn the activity into a meal.
Setting aside your objections, there are compelling academic reasons that you should integrate cooking into your teaching toolkit. In addition to helping your students develop better eating habits and life skills, cooking also addresses all of the different learning styles or multiple intelligences in your kids. Additionally, it reinforces Common Core standards and academics that you are already teaching.
Here are some examples for how to extend learning beyond the recipes you prepare with your students:
- Kids get the opportunity to classify, measure, count, estimate, and recognize numbers and fractions in a practical and “real-life” setting…with an edible outcome!
- Use cooking to help the needy and practice math at the same time. Pick your favorite recipe and double or triple it – and then donate it to a soup kitchen.
- Cooking with kids exposes them to new vocabulary, ranging from kitchen tools and ingredients to cooking strategies and methods.
- Recipes encourage kids to practice symbol recognition, language patterns, and sequences.
- Following along with the steps of a recipe reveal the importance of directions and the sequence in which they are followed. Would it matter if you didn’t beat the eggs before you added them to the skillet for your omelet? Yep – following both written and oral directions matters!
- Build connections between story books and recipes by joining Kids Cook with Books, our free monthly reading and cooking club for kids ages 2-8. Participate with your students, or encourage parent engagement at home by joining.
- The kitchen is like a laboratory! Kids in the kitchen can ask questions, make predictions, observe, investigate and experiment.
- What would happen if you used cold butter in a recipe instead of room temperature butter? What if it was melted instead? Questions like these allow children to be inquisitive scientists, predicting and comparing results when they make simple (or big!) changes in a recipe.
- What happens to ingredients when they are combined? What if they are frozen? Baked? Boiled? Guess what? This is science in action. And the best part is that it is relatable and observable.
- Where does food come from? How does it impact the land where it is grown or the people who grow it?
- Eat your way around the world by preparing dishes from other cultures.
- Are certain foods unique to different regions of the world? Is this because of climate? Cultural, religious, or dietary preferences?
- Learn about how to be a good citizen by taking turns and feeding the hungry.
As a special “thank you” for readers of Minds in Bloom, I’d like to offer you a FREE Cook the Alphabet Activity Bundle to try with your students. They will love interacting with food, and you will love that they are learning at the same time.
Michelle Stern is a former high school biology teacher and founder of What’s Cooking with Kids, a cooking school for children in the SF Bay Area. She is the author of The Whole Family Cookbook and was invited to the White House to be part of the launch of Michelle Obama’s Chef’s Move to Schools Initiative. You can find her at her website, Facebook, and Instagram.