December 18, 2009

For the love of cooking; Or, why schools need home economics classes

Today was the last day of school for the semester. And, I ended on a high note.

My College English class finished with a unit on food. We watched Food, Inc. (if you haven't seen it yet, go rent it NOW) and wrote response essays, arguing one of the questions the film presents. Before the movie, I asked students to briefly research one of the topics mentioned in the film (things like Monsanto, processed food, E. Coli, etc.) and present their findings to the class. They had a bit of difficulty understanding what processed foods were, so the next day I brought in a bunch of food packages. We discussed whether or not they considered each item "healthy," then we looked at the ingredients in each. We also talked about foods they typically eat, what they're made of, and how good they are (or are not) for you.

After watching the film, I made real popcorn (with the Whirley Pop) and hot chocolate (whole milk with melted chocolate) for them one day. We talked about eating whole foods, shopping at farmers markets, buying organic food. Overall, they said that organic food was too expensive. So, I made a list of items they would buy for themselves...backpack, purse, shoes, pens & pencils, shampoo, face care products, etc. We talked about for which items low-cost was a priority. They said that they would buy more expensive bags and shoes, because they usually last longer. They said they'd buy more expensive personal products, because those products are "better for you." Ah ha! "She got us," one girl remarked. I told them that organic foods are only a dollar or two more expensive and that they WERE BETTER FOR THEM. So, if they'll buy expensive shampoo, why not slightly more expensive FOOD? They got it.

Overall, I think I converted at least a few students. One boy, in fact, went to Global Foods with his parents last weekend. Here's what he wrote to me:

So today my mother, father, and I all went over to Global Food in Kirkwood, and I do have to say that it was incredibly amazing. It had all types of food from everywhere in the world, most of it being organic, and containing very few preservatives, if any. I have spoken to my mom and she has agreed to start trying to be more healthy, by using more organic products. My father an old stick in the mud of course does not agree with our decision, but of course he does not do the cooking nor the shopping. I just finished of an amazing cup of hot cocoa, from which I bought from a shop called Cornucopia, near Global Food. We left both stores with a decent amount of things, including some soap from turkey which smells heavenly. I believe Ms. Schmickle would be very proud of me.

And, he's right...I AM proud! This unit worked so well; the students seemed interested. In fact, one girl said she liked my class because we learned about "real" stuff, and that she learned more during this one unit than she did in her previous foods class (a program my school got rid of this year. Sad.). It almost made me cry. Seriously. THIS is why I became a teacher. I just wish I'd started it earlier, maybe taken a trip to a local farm. Oh well, next year.

On our last day, I challenged my class to make a recipe from scratch. I even printed off a few recipes for them to try. And they did it! Emily made espresso walnut cake. Bri made sesame soba noodles. Britaney made fettuccine alfredo. Jessica made brownies. Katelyn made snicker squares. Mason made Momofuku's ginger scallion noodles & homemade marshmallows...HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS, y'all! And they were way better than my attempt. Mine were beige in color (from using vanilla paste instead of extract) and scraggley looking; his were nice & white and...perfect. I was jealous.

I cannot tell you how impressed I was with all of their efforts! It was such a fun class! I'm really looking forward to next semester.

So, I am thinking of starting a "Supper Club" at my after school event, maybe once a month, to teach kids how to cook. Even though we no longer have a home ec. program, the kitchens are still intact. I wonder if that would go over well here...?


Angela said...

That's great that you were able to inspire them to at least think about the food they're consuming. A small thing like their college english class might be the start of a life-long habit of healthy eating.

eve! said...

So inspiring, Ms. S. English knows no bounds!

White Sugar Brown Sugar by Rachel Garlinghouse said...

Wow! YOu always have awesome ideas. I'm doing a food theme in 101, and I need fresh ideas. I am going to rent Food Inc at your suggestion. You're obviously a great teacher, Kelly, and I'm blessed to know you!

Evelyn said...

What an awesome unit and idea for the after school supper club! We certainly need more people (teachers, parents, other adults) who care about helping children, teenagers and young adults make good decisions about the things that are SOOO important to their lives like food is. Hope the supper club idea goes over well for you!

KCKyle said...

Well played! Great job, and great post.