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Creative Cookery

A group of young teachers had set out to earn their Masters Degrees. Thus far, they had completed every task presented to them with flying colors, but now came the truest test of their skills. As their final assignment, the students were asked to create a one-week arts-based curriculum for summer camp students. Their unit was to be Buffalo themed, and be appropriate for students from grade two to grade eight. At first, the teachers were stumped. How could they work with such a broad group of learners, and with such a vaguely defined topic as the arts? They decided that the first step was to define what art was, but each of them had different ideas! To some, art meant watercolors and sculpture; to others, art was music and dance; still others thought of acting and cooking as arts. The teachers found themselves with many different definitions of art, and no way of knowing which one the students would be looking for. Suddenly, one of the teachers had a brilliant idea. Why dont we do all of them? she asked. No one told us we had to do just one type of art all week. We could do a little bit of everything! Her fellow teachers agreed that this was a great idea, and together set out to create a unit plan for the week. They decided that each day would be split into two lessons, with morning and afternoon being different types of art. Monday would be introductory in the morning - students would create a journal which would be used for various activities throughout the week, and would complete a scavenger hunt to learn about the different arts venues in Buffalo. That afternoon, students would be divided into groups and would plan a recipe to create later that featured a Buffalo ingredient. Tuesday would focus on improvisational skits in the morning, and watercolor paintings in the afternoon. Students would cook and present their recipes

Wednesday morning, and perform wordless scenes to pieces of music after lunch. On Thursday, the students decorated their own buffalo sculptures to reflect their personalities, and began planning their skits for Friday after lunch. The final consisted of planning and rehearsing in the morning, with a performance of two skits and a dance in the afternoon. Once each day had been planned out, the teachers divided the topics up equally and began to plan their lessons. Two of the teacher worked in tandem to create their lessons. One was a family and consumer sciences teacher, and the other was elementary. Together, they created a two day lesson called Iron Chef Buffalo. Students were to be divided into group by age and one of four local ingredients: Cheerios, loganberry, Sahlens hotdogs, or Webers mustard. Each group would create a recipe that featured their ingredient in a way that was unconventional on Monday, and would prepare and present it to a panel of judges on Wednesday. They decided that since the FACS teacher had more experience with recipe planning, she would write the first half of the lesson. The elementary school teacher took the second half, with the students cooking. That Monday, chef Mary Ann Giordano came in to speak to the students about how she finds inspiration as a chef and using local ingredients. Students were given a chance to ask her about her profession, and were then divided into their preassigned groups and given their task. Each group of students worked with 2 of the teachers as they planned their recipe; those same two teachers would later help them prepare it. At the end of the day, students handed their recipes in for use on Wednesday. When Wednesday came, the two teachers got there early to make sure all the equipment they would need was in the kitchens. Although they had brought all the supplies required by their students, they quickly discovered that not only were their

two kitchens on two different floors, but only one of them had a working refrigerator. Thinking fast, the teachers rearranged which students would be working in which kitchens based on who needed a refrigerator and who did not and hoped for the best. The students arrived and were very excited to prepare their recipes. Before they began cooking, however, the elementary teacher did a short introductory activity about the importance of presentation in the culinary arts. She had poured clear lemon-lime soda into four different containers, and tinted three of them with food coloring to resemble various types of soda. She gave each student a small glass of each soda and asked them to guess what each soda was. She gave them a half sheet of paper upon which to write their guesses. After the students had tried all their sodas, they discussed their guesses as a group. About half of the students thought they had tried cola, orange soda, Mountain Dew, and Sprite, while the other half realized that all four were actually the same. This led to a discussion on why presentation is important - it can drastically affect how we think something tastes, even if we dont realize. Some examples of good and bad presentation were given, and then the students and teachers made their way to the kitchen. Upon arrival, students were reminded of the rules of the kitchen and what the judges would be looking for. They were given an hour of work time in which to prepare their dishes. The teachers then led their students to their respective students to the kitchen and got to work. The teachers assisted their students to ensure safety, but the students did the majority of the work themselves. The elementary school teacher who had planned the lesson ran back and forth between the two kitchens,

making sure that everyone was staying on track and reminding students of both the time limit and the presentation element. When the hour was up, students gathered in one of the lounges, where four of the camp directors were gathered. Each had been given a rubric to use to judge the dishes that were presented. One group at a time, the students came forward and presented their creations to the judges, briefly telling them about their secret Buffalo ingredient and how they had incorporated it into their dish. After the judges had tried them all, they left to tabulate the scores, and all the students were given a chance to try their peers dishes, as were the teachers. All four dishes were very different, but all were delicious. The students were so excited to try everyone elses food, even when it had ingredients they didnt normally like. They often found they were surprised by how much they enjoyed it. The judges later announced that they couldnt pick a winner, and it was a fourway tie. Some of the students seemed disappointed, but most of them just seemed to enjoy that they had gotten to create a recipe all their own. Many of them asked if the teacher would post the recipes on the camp website later so they could show their parents and make them again. She assured them that she would, pleased that they had so much fun cooking. Although the layout wasnt ideal, and certain things didnt go exactly as planned, she was happy. She knew that if she had it to do over again, she would have to make a few changes, but to her, the most important part was that her students had correctly executed their recipes, and most of all had fun. In that undertaking, she felt her lesson had been a complete success.

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