Let’s Cook serves up empowerment to students
By Darren Lum
Taking a break after dicing up mushrooms, stirring a roux and sprinkling cheese for a tuna casserole, Wilberforce Elementary School Grade 8 student Isaac Shanks said he appreciated participating in the Let’s Cook program.
Although Isaac already knew how to cook, he still enjoyed being able to spend time in the kitchen and see peers learn during a school day. He said knowing how to cook can “help when you grow up and need to cook at your house.”
Knowing how to cook is integral to understanding what you’re eating, plus it helps save money, he said.
Isaac was one of 11 students who got hands-on experience learning from Community Cooks, a volunteer committee of the Central Food Network, making tuna casserole, tomato-based pasta sauce and peach crisp on Wednesday, May 15 at the Lloyd Watson Community Centre in Wilberforce.
WES vice-principal Barbara Davies said this is the second year students from her school have participated.
Wilberforce Elementary School Grade 8 student Riley Boermans, far right, smiles at Violette Kane while making a pasta sauce during the Let’s Cook program on Wednesday, May 22. /DARREN LUM Staff
“The wonderful organizers prepared a curriculum ahead of time and shared it with me before the students started cooking – wow, I was so very impressed with the plan they created – each day has learning goals which align with our way of delivering curriculum and the program also integrates a variety of Grade 8 curriculum expectations such as math, health, and literacy. Cooking is a fun, hands-on way to learn many subject areas,” she wrote in an email.
“The students demonstrate growth throughout this program. They become more confident in the kitchen (especially with using utensils and techniques). They learn about kitchen safety, food safety, and cleanliness too. During the initial classes some of the students almost look a bit frightened and unsure, however by the last few classes all of the students are smiling, confident, and manoeuvring their way around the kitchen in a skilled, effortless manner.”
She said the program exposes students to new food items from other cultures.
“It is great fun to watch the students’ reactions when they are being introduced to new, unfamiliar food items,” she wrote in an email.
Davies said she was impressed with the cooking plans, which were submitted prior to the lesson.
“Each day there are learning goals which align with our way of delivering curriculum and the program also integrates a variety of Grade 8 curriculum expectations such as math, health, and literacy. Cooking is a fun, hands-on way to learn many subject areas,” she wrote.
The vice-principal said the people who run it are the most important part.
“They are people from our community, who are volunteering their time and energy, and they demonstrate a genuine care for the kids. They are so patient, understanding, and a lot of fun – they are sharing their valuable skills, techniques, and knowledge with our kids. They are fabulous role models for our kids as they are also teaching them social skills, relationship building, respect, communication, the importance of community, and a variety of character traits. They share their wisdom and their past experiences which really seems to intrigue the students,” she wrote in an email. “It makes my heart sing when I watch the students engaging with community members in a valuable, hands-on teaching/learning experience – I see both students and adults sharing a great time. Such a terrific school-community partnership!”
Volunteer Ben Scott said: “It just gives them more power. I think confidence and power are huge for kids, especially at this age. It’s a weird age. I don’t know if it would decide anything to have to do with their career, but it may give them more confidence when it comes to just taking things on that they [don’t know].”
Let’s Cook is sponsored by the Central Food Network and the Highlands East Food Hub.