Jenna Jobin gathered her nine preschool students around the table on a Thursday afternoon at the Kelloggsville Early Childhood Learning Center, home to 12 classrooms of 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds and young 5’s.
On one side of her was a gallon of milk and a big, silver-colored mixing bowl. On the other side was a box of cereal, some blueberries and packets of pudding powder she was about to open.
For the moment her students were transfixed. But that was about to change. Still, while her audience sat rapt, Jobin sensed the time was right for a little teaching.
Holding the milk up, she asked, “What’s this?”
“Milk,” the students replied in unison, several of them drawing out the “i” in milk so that the single word took on a singing sound.
“Good,” Jobin affirmed, “and what color is it?”
“White,” came the quick reply, the same students drawing out another “i” into a song.
Jobin smiled and then explained that today the class would be making pudding parfaits. Nine students immediately began to jiggle and jostle as the excitement of another Thursday cooking session started to sink in.
Later, Jobin explained the purpose of the weekly exercise.
“I have been cooking with the students since the beginning of the school year,” she said. “We call it Cooking Thursday, and we have made everything from applesauce to pretzels to English muffin pizzas to smoothies.”
Sounds tasty, but what’s the academic value?
“I introduced this because of the great learning opportunities it provides the children,” Jobin explained. “At my previous district I did cooking with the children weekly with the speech therapist to work on language development. During cooking, I like to expose the children to new vocabulary and ask questions.”
Learning Lots from Food
Among the pedagogical areas that Jobin brings to Cooking Thursdays are language development (“introducing new words, working out and pronouncing words, beginning sounds awareness”); math (“measurement, counting, shape and size”); science (“change in the ingredients”); and social (“waiting and taking turns.”).
So, on this pudding parfait day, Jobin kept up a steady stream of dialogue as students worked with their hands and listened with their ears.
As she introduced blueberries as an ingredient in the parfait: “What sound does blueberry start with? Bah, bah, bee.”
As the students started to load their dishes with pudding: “How many scoops of pudding will you put in? 1-2-3.”
And as they began to eat their treat: “Is it delicious? Like dee, dee deer.”
For Early Childhood Learning Center Principal Kim Stevens, Jobin’s efforts have been terrific to observe.
“I loved the idea of Cooking Thursdays,” Stevens said. “The students have an opportunity to work together to create something to share. Through the cooking, they are also learning about measuring, following directions and working as a team. They are learning about ingredients, textures, tastes and smells.
“The best part,” she added, “is that they get to enjoy what they created together.”