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Passion Project:

FCS: More than just Cooking and Sewing

Ellen Baker

NWU: The American Dream



This paper will examine the value that Family and Consumer Science classes bring to each

school. Multiple life skills are taught and reinforced throughout the class course including:

teamwork, diversity, problem solving, responsibility and communication. The curriculum of

Family and Consumer Science is food handling safety and sanitation, innovative design through

fabric construction, finances, positive decision making and healthy relationships. This class

offers practical instruction that can be utilized on a daily basis within the community and home.

Key Words: ​Family and Consumer Science (FCS),​ ​value, belonging, inclusion, teamwork,

collaboration, communication, diversity, cooking, sewing


I can’t count the number of times I share my job title and people say “Oh you’re the

cooking teacher.” Or they respond in surprise when I tell them that yes, kids still sew in school.

It saddens me because most individuals come up blank when asked what our classes involve.

However, my passion is to highlight the important values and positive benefits of students

enrolled in Family and Consumer Science classes (FCS).

My classroom is about so much more than cooking & sewing, in fact FCS was always

meant to be more. ​FCS, originally called Home Economics, was created in 1899 with an

overarching goal to improve the individual, family and overall well being of a person while

promoting social change within the community ​(American Association of Family and Consumer

Science Education, 2010). If you look behind the many seams, you will see leadership and

teamwork interwoven into all of our activities. Food labs provide a learning space for students to

collaborate, using peer accountability which is shown to be extremely effective in helping

students learn well (Juliani, 2015) My students learn to communicate, work with others they

“don’t like” and contribute to a team. Students are not allowed to pick their groups because it is

critical for them to understand how to engage with all types of people. The way the students

overcome interpersonal challenges plays into how they are graded and we have dialogues

surrounding how this will equip them in the future. No one can argue that the ability to work

with others is a life skill that will carry into each and every aspect of their lives as they go


I teach at Goodrich Middle school which is an extremely diverse school therefore I

intentionally chose the text “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” by

Beverly Daniel Tatum. Over 80% of our student population is on free and reduced lunch and

about 50% of our population is part of a minority group. Discussion of race and other cultures

arises on a daily basis and as a teacher it is crucial I know how to navigate these conversations in

a positive and constructive manner. Teaching students that their story matters while

simultaneously helping them understand the importance of empathy for others, reinforces they

are not alone in their struggles. It is just as important to acknowledge the pains and struggles of

others, as well as our own (Tatum, 2017). My students are made constantly aware of their unique

differences which is cause for celebration but they often carry the misconception that they have

“nothing” in common with their peers. Through getting to know one another in labs and

classroom activities, students slowly realize, even if the situation is different, they same many of

the same emotions as their peers.

We all agree the need to feel like one belongs is significant for each of our lives. One of

my goals within my class is to ensure that every student who walks through my door knows that

they belong. It’s not about being a master sewer or chef but being a part of something bigger, a

team! If I’m able to tap into a passion for cooking or sewing, obviously that’s important, but I am

more concerned about students leaving with a sense that someone cares, whether it’s myself or

their peers. From first hand experience I know this is especially important for my refugee &

immigrant students who have just uplifted everything they know to come to America.

The drive to ensure my students basic needs are met, is an aspect of FCS is close to my

own personal experiences and impacts how I approach my students. My parents were divorced

which led me to grow up in two different worlds. One was stable, chores were expected and the

house was kept orderly. The other world was one of chaos and keeping the house clean was a

way preventing a potential emotional outburst from the adult. I learned the value of everyday

things like laundry, cooking & cleaning at a young age, it took on a whole different meaning to


I see in my students the same desire for stability, consistency and connectedness that I

experienced in my adolescence. As children get older, they only become more aware of their

need to feel loved. According to the Education of Early Childhood Journal (2002),

“As the child gets older, these feelings of being unloved

intensify. Many times these children come to childcare

establishments and school seeking love and a sense of belonging.

Unfortunately, these establishments seldom fulfill or even

recognize the need, and the children continued to feel unloved or

out of place. In the absence of feeling a sense of belonging and

love, many children fail to identify with the establishment of


Understanding that school might be the only time each day where my students engage

makes it a priority for me to keep that focus and intention in my curriculum. Engaging in a way

that makes them feel a sense of belonging and inclusion drove me to teach a subject that

consistently presents each student with the ability to connect with one another. There is no doubt

that conflict and differences arise but it is understood these issue are addressed, not ignored. It’s

usually always do to a difference in upbringing and background. I agree strongly with Tatum

(2017) when she says ​“I​ f we teach children to recognize injustice, then we must also teach them

that people can create positive change by working together.​”​ When students first experience

conflict they want to “quit” or work alone but this is not an option in my class. Instead I convince

them of the value of problem solving and learning to overcome the challenges, emphasizing

confrontation does not have to result in strained relationships.

Mealtime is supposed to be the time of the day where one feels like they are a part of a

bigger group, whether its one other person or five therefore students eat in what’s called “family

style,” which requires all of their teammates to be sitting before they can take a bite of their food.

Once seated I encourage them to talk about their day and often intervene with cheesy questions

like “If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?” I try to ask questions that are

more intentional, giving students an opportunity to share about their family background and

traditions carried on by their family. As Tatum (2017) states ​“​As educators we need to provide

adolescents with identity-affirming experiences and information about their own cultural

groups.” By engaging students with those that are different from themselves, they are given a

different perspective on who the person is outside of just “looks,” assumptions are tossed to the


There is an incredible amount of research behind the value of sitting and sharing food

with another person. No matter what your race, background or culture, we all have to eat! When

students eat with others, ideally at home with the family, it is said to improve social &

educational outcomes (Journal of American Diabetic Association, 2006). Many of my students

don’t eat meals with their family due to life circumstances but I still hope to instil this important

practice in their lives.

In a society where technology is the center of our attraction it is key that we learn how to

converse in person and not behind a screen. This allows kids a chance to take a step back in time

and find common ground outside of social media. Feeling fulfilled by conversation and not by

“likes.” Feeling fulfilled by smiles and nods when they share their story and not the number of

friends they have on snapchat. Engaging kids in a meal free of electronics, where everybody has

a role in the cooking process highly increases the feeling of togetherness (Journal of the

American Diabetic Association, 2006).

I put together a food lab where students invite an adult guest from the building giving

them an opportunity to have positive interactions with teachers outside of class. We send out

invitations and students prepare a list of questions to ask the adult about their personal lives. It’s

exciting to see students and teachers interacting in such a positive environment. I strongly

believe that student-adult relationships can shape their life and am honored to present a space for

them to do that. As the students and teachers eat the meal the students have prepared I can see

the pride and joy it brings them to see an adult enjoying the food that they worked hard to cook

together as a team. Also, school is one of the few places that students who live in poverty can

learn middle class rules (Payne, Devol, Smith, 2009). Presenting opportunities to eat with adults

encourages students to learn and practice proper table manners & etiquette. These skills may

seem minor but imagine a job interview that revolves around eating, these skills could mean the

difference between landing a job and being turned away.

The other main skill we teach in FCS is basic sewing skills with an emphasis on

innovative design. When I teach sewing I tell my kids, if one person does not understand the

material, it is our responsibility as a class to help them. When a student masters a step, they don’t

move on but become teacher assistants. They proceed to rotate around the room and help others

who are struggling. I have been proud to see my students taking this role very seriously. Instead

of roaming around and talking to friends, they walk around searching for those who are a step or

two behind. This type of peer interaction has set up a supportive and encouraging environment

where students know they will not be left behind.

Family and Consumer Science is about more than just cooking and sewing. Throughout

their time in FCS students learn to embrace one another equally with an understanding that

regardless of race, upbringing or social class, everyone is included and embraced for who they

are (Tatum, 2017). FCS is about inclusion, belonging, teamwork, communication and building

one another up. We instill confidence in our students while providing them opportunities for

hands on learning. We help teach a vast variety of life skills that can be used on a daily basis.

Next time somebody asks you what Family and Consumer Science teachers do, make sure they

know we are NOT just cooking and sewing, we are advocates for youth, for connection, for

lifelong skill in connecting with others.


Review of Literature

Tatum, Beverly Daniel. ​"Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": and

Other Conversations about Race​. Basic Books, 2017.

Tatum writes about the race and prejudice in America and how that affects the public school

system. She describes the importance and struggles of minority students and their journey to

discover their identity based on race and culture. She reviews the challenges of trying to discover

one's identity depending on family background, environment and messages sent to the individual

through schooling. I found this source incredibly helpful as a white teacher in a diverse middle

school. I feel better equipped to navigate conversations with my students about race and culture.

I highly recommend every educator read this book.

Price, D. L., & Howard, E. M. (fall 2002). Children and Their Basic Needs. ​Early Childhood

Education Journal,​ ​30(​ 1), 1-7. Retrieved June 21, 2018.

In this article Price and Howard explore Maslow's hierarchy of needs and its effect when

students grow up in poverty. The 5 basic needs explored in this article are: physiological needs,

safety needs, self-esteem, belonging and love, and self actualization. It touches on physiological

needs like food and health care, explaining while no child is starving in America, poor children

are struggling to obtain the nutrients they need or access to consistent healthcare. The second

need for safety is compromised by unsafe neighborhoods, old homes, high anxiety and a focus

on survival instincts. I was most interested on their section about love and belonging because

they specifically discuss the important role school plays in fulfilling this need when it comes to

kids from poor homes. They discuss self-esteem and self-actualization being linked to one

another. Overall I found this article extremely helpful since 80% of my students are on free and

reduced lunch. This is important for me to keep in mind when kids act distracted or have

behavior issues because the conversation needs to first revolve around questioning if those basic

needs have been met.

Carson, K. L., PhD, RD. (2006). Family Mealtimes: More than Just Eating Together. ​Journal of

the American Dietetic Association,​ ​106(​ 4), 532-533. Retrieved June 21, 2018.

This article explores the many positive benefits of families eating together including family diet,

behavior, and bonding between family members. In the research families ate together an average

of 4 times a week, this resulted in eating healthier foods like fruits and vegetables. Furthermore,

researchers encouraged families to have zero electronics at the table, talk about positive topics

and include the children in the meal preparation. They strongly suggest that family mealtimes

need to be a high priority within the family. I highly agree with this article because I look back

and some of my best memories was eating dinner with my family, even when I wasn’t

particularly excited about what was being served. This article backs up my belief that meal times

have significant value, resulting in participants feeling a sense of belonging and inclusion. Even

if students are not having meals together four times a week like in the article, I still believe it

makes a positive difference.


Juliani, A. J. (2015). ​Inquiry and innovation in the classroom: Using 20% time, genius hour, and

PBL to drive student success.​ New York: Routledge.

This book explores the importance of setting up a classroom that is filled with innovation and

inquiry. The book takes a realistic approach by stating we need to be using 20% of our time to

give kids an option to be innovative, inquiring into topics of their choice and interest. One of the

biggest drives behind this book is the idea that with the constant rise of technology, we have no

idea what jobs will be available to our students when they graduate from college. I read this book

with a select group from my school who was challenged to be more innovative within our

classrooms. It paints a picture of innovation for the educator who might see view this movement

as challenging or overwhelming.

DeVol, P. E., Payne, R. K., & Smith, T. D. (2014). ​Bridges out of poverty: Strategies for

professionals and communities: Workbook.​ Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.

Bridges out of Poverty is a book that explores in depth the different ways an individual finds

themself living in poverty. This book helps break down the different strategies professionals and

communities can use to help individuals work their way out of poverty. Through exploring

language, patterns, rules they help to paint a picture of why it is challenging to escape poverty.

Furthermore, they explain how to teach individuals how to be successful in the workforce,

community and home life. I read this book when I went through a training that was provided

through the Bay that was geared towards professionals or individuals who work with those in

poverty. I found it extremely enlightening to read a book that clearly paints a picture of the harsh

reality and struggle one must go through to get out of poverty.

American Association of Family and Consumer Science. (2010). A Brief History. Retrieved June

22, 2018, from ​http://www.wafcs.net/history.html

AAFC covers a brief history of the FCS profession including the year, who started it and why it

was started. The sight talks about the founder, Ellen H. Richards, who was an activist passionate

about everything from public safety to the principles of the family. The overall focus of FCS is

explained in detail which is ultimately to strengthen families and communities. Overall, FCS

professionals are about empowering the family and individual through teaching students basic

life skills that will better their lives on a daily basis.



A: Passion Project Lesson Plan

Objective ● Students will understand the role of an FCS teacher.

● Students will be able to identify the values behind FCS curriculum.

Materials ● Blank Paper (Anticipatory Set)

Needed ● Powerpoint over FCS Values
● Paper for writing out application idea
● 2 sewing machines

Anticipatory ● Word Association

Set ○ Students will work with a partner to identify the words that
come to mind when one mentions Family and Consumer
Science (home economics) class. Students will do “whip
around” and share out answers.

Main Lesson ● Explore how inclusion, belonging & teamwork are key components
in every FCS lesson.
● Highlight Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs in relation to FCS class.
● Importance of removing technology and allowing organic
○ “Put the phone down” video
● Summary of “Why are all the Black Kids sitting together in the
cafeteria?” by Beverly Tatum
● Summary of Literature

Application ● Where are opportunities for you to create a space for belonging and
inclusion in your life?
○ Family, friends, students & co-workers
● Where are we seeing only 1 story?
● How can we approach others ideas, even those as “opposite” of
ourselves and view them as a teammate?

Wrap up ● Hands on Activity

○ Sewing Machine Walk-through: Paper Sew

The Meta Picture. (October 6). If This Video Doesn't Convince You To Put Down Your Phone,

Nothing Probably Will. Retrieved June 22, 2018, from


This website was used for my Lesson Plan to put an emphasis on the importance of organically

interacting with others. Our need to put the technology to the side so we can truly connect with

others. I like this video because his presentation style is engaging and his points are well made.