Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chemical Reactions in the Kitchen

Well, parent teacher conferences are coming around again, so in the tradition established by my fall conferences this year, I decided to have the kids make food for conferences. (Hey, it got 93% of my parents there last time, which was a first!) We made decided to make brownies, the kind that DON'T come from a box. (Half the kids didn't know that was possible!) (Disregard my gratuitous use of parentheses.) I was planning on making them in the room, and then having seeing if I could bake them in the home ec room. When I asked the teacher if that was possible, she asked if we just wanted to make them there in the home ec room. This was a total gift and worked SO much better than every other time I've attempted to make food in my own, non-kitchen classroom. 

So, today was brownie day and the kids were thrilled. I foolishly told my co-worker that I expected the kids to have better behavior than usual, because they'd be so excited to be somewhere new and doing something different. (This is actually what happens with the laptops, so I wasn't speaking without good reason to believe that). This morning was crazy and I spent half the morning lecturing the kids about behavior which I DESPISE doing, and am pretty sure I'm no good at doing. 

Anyway, right after lunch, we went over to the home ec room, got everyone set up and ready to go. There were definitely some hiccups, as far as set-up goes, that was my fault. For instance, I didn't realize till this morning that there were only 3 available kitchen set-ups to use, and I had 7 groups making brownies. So, I had to find something else for the others to do while the first half was working, so I had them write a paragraph summarizing the recipe which they'd already read, and then a paragraph about their opinion of how it went. (These are actually skills they need to be able to do on writing assessments--summarize key ideas and justify an opinion with facts.) This worked surprisingly well, and after they finished writing, they (mostly) waited patiently for the others to finish! 

Overall, I was super impressed with the kids. Luckily enough, I did not have to eat my words about their behavior being better (or at least decent) in the kitchen. The home ec teacher was great and had stuff setting out and ready to go for the kids, including aprons and bandanas! The kids were so cute! I was so surprised at how well they worked together in their groups, as well as how they helped out. I had a kid that just started sweeping, without being asked, another who volunteered to help another group with dishes, and another assisting other groups in making sure they were doing things right. 
The only thing I did not anticipate, was how much different it is to have kids mis-measuring when chemical reactions need to take place in order for the whole thing to work! So, I had to be watching like a hawk to make sure that 2 t. of vanilla went in (not 2 Tablespoons) or that they didn't use the 1/3 c. instead of 1/4 c. because they couldn't find the other. The biggest thing I didn't anticipate was when I had one group have an extremely dry batter. They knew it wasn't right and I knew it wasn't right, but we couldn't figure out what they did wrong. Then, I turned around for a second and when I came back, they were trying to figure out how they were going to use the little container of salt to measure of half cup of it!!! I said "No, no, no, no, no!!! You need 1/2 TEASPOON of salt! Wait a minute-is that how you measured the baking powder?" Sure enough, they had put in 1/2 cup of baking powder!!!! Needless to say, that pan just didn't turn out. :-) It was a learning experience right? I felt bad for the kids, because they tried so hard, and were one of my best, smartest groups. Minor misunderstandings can lead to big problems! Oh well, for a first time, 6 out of 7 turned out, so that's not too bad right? :-) The kids had a ball, and even though it was crazy busy for me, it ended up working really well. :-) I'll post some more pix tomorrow. 


Lizzy on the Counter said...

Great Teacher,
You rock! I'm so excited to read about your adventures in cooking with novice chefs. I'm sure the kids that learned the most were the ones whose batch didn't turn out. You and I both know about mistakes in the kitchen...and we're better cooks for those mishaps.
Love ya!!

D Shetler said...

Yeah, that group who overdid the baking powder was so crushed they couldn't eat theirs, even though they could still eat others, they really wanted theirs! :-) Hopefully a life lesson learned though-all letters and symbols are there for a reason! :-)