Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Making Pancakes and Memories

We've been doing a unit on food this month and having some great conversations.  When you work with kids from around the globe, discussing food from their countries and cultures can be an endless topic of fascination.  They all get excited about it.  Everyone can relate. 

This week the word "crops" came up so we talked about what crops are grown in our state and then I asked them about crops that are grown in their countries.  A long discussion about the wonder and deliciousness of dates followed.....

Then, as a unified group, they began begging me to cook something with them. Luckily enough,  our center is in an old Family and Consumer Science room so we have a kitchen.  When we moved into this  space, I was a little unsure about how we were going to make it function as a regular classroom, but I was absolutely thrilled to see a kitchen.  

So, on Monday I got to combine two of my favorite things- teaching and cooking.  We made pancakes.    First I showed them how to make a batch of pancakes and I had two of my most talkative students be my assistants.  They learned new vocabulary- "ingredients, combine, batter, griddle, flip".  We talked about measuring tools- cups, tablespoons, teaspoons.  

Then we cooked them up- we had 3  groups of students working on their own batches- I had a volunteer that day who was with one group; our paraprofessional, was with another; and I had the third, although I have to admit one of my students kind of took over our station along with the spatula and he was excellent at it.  :)

 I was expecting some chaos but it was one of the best, smoothest,  and most language-rich lessons I have ever taught.  The students were so completely motivated and engaged.  They were speaking to each other in English, using new vocabulary, and working together amazingly well. 

We laid out the spread of pancakes including blueberries, strawberries, and syrup.  We put tablecloths on the tables.  I sent my two big talkers to the other room to invite my colleague and her group to eat with us.  It was a beautiful thing to see them all sit around chomping on pancakes together- many of them tasting pancakes and also blueberries for the first time.  

There was also a nice bowl full of dates on the table and when some of the students saw that they got so excited you would have thought I just gave them a puppy.  :)

Sometimes I wonder what my students will remember in the years to come about their time in our program.  Oh, I hope they remember ALL the lessons...but I think the ones they'll remember the most are the lessons connected to shared and meaningful experiences.  When they look back on this year, I imagine these things might come to mind:

- The rock climbing and fossil hunting trip we took in the fall
-Taking care of their caterpillars as they went through the cycle to a butterfly and then releasing those butterflies outside on a warm fall day
-Learning and playing the wonderful game of chess
-Watching my colleague and their teacher win an award in the community for being an excellent educator-and the party that followed
-Careening down the school's snowy hills on sleds and having hot chocolate afterwards in the classroom
-Painting their first country's flags during art class
- AND, making pancakes.

It's tough in today's busy and demanding classroom to find the time, energy, money, resources, and support to help create these experiences for your students.  But, it's well worth it if you can do it. They won't just learn important things for their brain during these activities, they'll learn things that will also leave an imprint on their hearts.

What did I learn on Monday?  What will I remember?  - When you do something like this, you make more than just pancakes, you make memories.  And, THAT is priceless.  

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