Sunday, September 20, 2015
Team building and life skills for children
What was your most significant and transformational learning experience at school? Was it music, PE, science or French? In Dead Poets Society the teacher inspires his students through the teaching of poetry. At Mt Eliza Primary, the students are extremely fortunate to be involved in a life changing program called Kitchen Garden. It is amazing for a variety of reasons:
1. Children learn life skills
Children learn how to cook which is an important skill they will have for the rest of their lives. As an adult I have a small repertoire of meals that I prepare at home on a rotational basis. However since becoming a parent helper the menu of meals that I regularly cook has dramatically increased. The children are very lucky to be introduced to a wide variety of healthy meals from all over the world. As a helper I have learned how to make fresh pasta with a pasta maker. I have also learned to make Japanese pancakes, Greek spanokopita, Thai curries, pumpkin bread, beetroot brownies and an amazing pasta sauce with roast cauliflower, pumpkin and basil.
2. Children learn to try new food
How do you get children to eat more vegetables? As a parent, I have had limited success getting my children to consume healthy foods at home. Yet every week during the Kitchen Garden program I am stunned as children devour the food that has been prepared. Children are encouraged to sample all the food and they are frequently delighted when they discover that fresh vegetables can be delicious. It’s hard trying to get your children to eat cabbage at home but when it is an ingredient in Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes) there are no leftovers. Food comprising silver beet, zucchini, pumpkin, cabbage and cauliflower are happily eaten.
3. Children learn to follow instructions
A kitchen is a dangerous place with many hazards so there is a huge focus on safety. I would have thought that the meals would be simple and kid friendly but this is not the case. The instructions involve many steps, lots of ingredients and the use of large knives. The children are taught how to do things correctly and they are closely supervised to prevent accidents. The meals are delicious and restaurant quality. A typical meal might be a rice salad with a lentil curry and Naan bread and a raspberry macaroon for dessert.
4. Parents learn too
At our home there has been a transformation. My child volunteers to help in the kitchen. Last week he helped cut up all the vegetables and then helped make fresh pasta. I then watched him eat all his dinner and then help with the washing up. Why do I love kitchen garden? I feel like our lives have changed for the better. Spending time in the kitchen no longer feels like a chore. We are spending more time shopping for fresh ingredients and more time preparing food but it is worth it. We are making delicious fresh meals and the kids are eating healthy food.
5. Personal Development
The children are empowered, enthusiastic and fully engaged. They want to help with every task whether it is cutting vegetables, stirring a curry or kneading bread dough. Children learn teamwork, collaboration and the importance of each person's contribution to the greater good. Four work groups prepare a meal course that comes together for a finale that is a delicious group feast.
Children volunteer to stay back during recess and help with the washing up in the hope that they may be given an extra serve of dessert.
6. It’s fun
All the children are engaged in the session and share in the triumphs created. It is a sensory delight with fragrant herbs, exotic spices and the hustle and energy of a commercial kitchen.
The Kitchen Garden program helps to develop students' self confidence in a fun and dynamic environment. I have no doubt that when students reflect on their experience at school they will appreciate how lucky they were to be part of such an excellent and worthwhile program.