Mona Voelkel

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The Kitchen: The Original Maker Space!


Genre: Cookbooks and Food-Themed Books (K-12)

Why Should Kids Cook or Bake Using Recipes?

As a reading specialist, I have been immersed over the past year in researching and developing virtual reality lessons for students that would promote literacy and student engagement..  My next step was to design an after-school curriculum.  I was especially interested in the research that showed how these virtual reality experiences could build empathy and knowledge.  As I pondered the best way to go about this, I realized that children may not need any more opportunities to engage with technology after school.  Wherever I go, children as young as a year old are on ipads and/or smartphones.  I started to yearn for not to design a technology-based hands-on experience but just a hands-on experience that would build knowledge, be engaging and build empathy.  As I thought about it, I realized that old standby, connecting students with food-themed books and cookbooks while having  them follow recipes would accomplish that! The kitchen was the original MakerSpace!  Here are just some of the reasons that I think we should focus more attention on cooking and baking with children:

Reading and Following Recipes builds Comprehension!  An important component of reading comprehension is matching your reading speed to the task at hand in order to facilitate understanding.  Following a recipe usually requires skills like scanning, reading over the recipe quickly to get an overview of the steps and materials needed and close reading, reading each part of the recipe slowly in order to complete each step.

Reading and Following Recipes Expands Vocabulary!  Just savor the vocabulary that a child would be exposed to while reading the “Flaky Apple Strudel” recipe from Diane Simone Vezza’s Passport on a Plate: strudel, flaky, whirlpool, granulated, phyllo, thawed, confectioners’, wafers.  Most recipes offer similar opportunities for students to be exposed to new vocabulary in context.

Cooking and Baking Requires Following Written Directions!  Following written directions is an essential skill that each student must master to be successful in the school environment.  This is especially true with written assessments which require students to independently read and carry out sometimes multi-step directions.  Cooking and baking gives children real world experience in following directions, including suffering the consequences of leaving out an ingredient, mismeasuring and/or not following the recipe.

Cooking and Baking Builds Math and Science Sense!  Cooking and baking using recipes exposes children to measurement (teaspoon, tablespoons, cups, quarts, ounces, pounds, etc.) which help builds an understanding of ratios and fractions.  Cooking and baking with children also exposes them to scientific processes such as boiling, freezing/boiling points, dissolving and chemical interactions, such as that which occurs when making yogurt and bread.

Cooking and Baking Can Build Cultural Awareness/Geographical Awareness and Empathy! By taking the time to connect recipes with their country (using a map) of origin and discuss what life in that country is like for childdren their age, children are able to build on their knowledge of the world.  Opening the door to awareness of the world sets the stage for interest, empathy and related action.

Build Positive Attitudes Towards Books!  Reading aloud and discussing an enjoyable food-themed book and then enjoying food based on that book builds positive attitudes towards reading and creates cherished memories.

Build Positive Attitudes Towards Food and Healthy Eating!  Learning how to prepare food is an essential life skill and could forseeably cut down on a child’s future over-reliance on processed food, a noted health risk.  Cooking and baking with students allows for many fpositive ood and health related conversations to emerge during the time spent preparing dishes and dining together.  

Next week, I will be highlighting some food-themed books and cookbooks for children, with related literacy activities.  Let me know some of your favorite cooking or baking memories from your childhood!

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