The power of collaborative learning

#teacher5adaycook inspiring a generation of Young foodies @andrew_cowley23 @Love_Food_UK

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Andrew Cowley  @andrew_cowley23  is Deputy Head in a primary school in South East London. He has a passion for curriculum design and creativity, and wholeheartedly believes that cooking skills can drive and support the rest of the curriculum, both academically and socially. As a passionate foodie, he can also be found as half of the Cooking Duo on Twitter @Love_Food_UK  and on their blog https://forfoodlovers.wordpress.com/ 

What I did in my holidays: #teacher5adaycook This summer break, inspired by Martyn Reah (@MartynReah) and his ‘Teacher 5 a Day’ initiative, I launched the hashtag #teacher5adaycook through StaffRm. Intended to challenge colleagues to connect with family, friends and colleagues by cooking at least one, but preferably two new dishes for each week of the summer holiday, many teachers too up the challenge and shared their work each day on Twitter.

  Invented, the subject of innovation or just simply lifted from a recipe book; the opportunity to use real ingredients from scratch as a matter of routine rather than as a treat represented part of the challenge. A few weekly challenges were thrown in too: pasta sauces, bread, salads; we never quite got around to puddings. The home grown option provided a further element. I haven’t shopped for a courgette or tomato for weeks!

  To many people, myself included, cooking is a hobby as well as a necessity. There are however many adults who do not venture further than the convenience food aisle in the supermarket. There are implications for cost, health and preservative intake that I won’t venture into here.

The positive outcomes from this challenge were many: the sharing of dishes, ingredients and ideas; the opportunity to make new connections with colleagues; the avoidance of ‘teacher chat’- this was oh so refreshing!

  However what began as a fun summer challenge has two further challenges arising from it.

Firstly, can we continue this into the new term? It is difficult to give time to cooking from scratch on a ‘school night’ with commitment to our professional, personal and family responsibilities. However with a little planning of menus and ingredients, use of leftovers and creative thinking, particularly for lunches, there is no reason why the colours and flavours of the summer cannot be repeated into the autumn. Weekends in particular offer great opportunities to continue the connections we have reinforced with family, forged with new friends and build our bonds with our colleagues.

Secondly: now this is particularly relevant to primary colleagues. Can you bring this newly rediscovered love for food into your classroom? Part of the new primary curriculum for the past year, cooking offers a number of challenges to teachers, particularly those lacking in confidence in teaching lessons with knives and graters. There is also the question for many teachers of how to relate cooking to the curriculum, and also to fit it into an already crowded timetable. It has been suggested that primary aged children should receive 15 to 20 hours of teaching of cookery skills in an academic year. That’s about an hour every other week.

This is the challenge set in my school. Think of it though in the context which we plan. We launched the new curriculum through a project based approach, with each project based upon at least one quality core text from the CLPE Power of Reading Project. ‘Project’ is the key word; not ‘topic’, as topics tend to be rather open ended and ill-defined. The ‘project’ has a clear opening, a distinct ending and ‘meaningful’ events between the two. By lateral rather than linear thinking, it is quite possible to plan the bulk of the curriculum from a series of core texts for the entire year.

Any exceptions sit outside the curriculum, and are taught discretely. This would apply particularly to the mathematics curriculum, PE and perhaps RE too. This is not an example of the oft criticised styles of primary school teaching from the 1970s. Rigour in planning, delivery and assessment sits at the heart of what we do, as does teaching a curriculum that is inclusive yet at the same time creative and enjoyable for children and adults alike.

Cooking quite readily fits within this model. Let’s take a couple of examples. ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’, set in wartime, allows the opportunity to prepare, taste and use ingredients from the limited range the ration allowed. Woolton Pie was the lunchtime ‘treat’ as our oldest children role played evacuees for the day. Anybody familiar with the text ‘Krindlekrax’ will be fully aware of the Splinter family obsession with tea and toast. This lead to a sequence of lessons on bread technology: how bread changes when it toasts, how and why bread goes mouldy and how to feed a giant crocodile. You really need to read the book to appreciate that part. A tea and toast party for the parents brought the project to a meaningful conclusion.

There may have been some exasperation in primary staffrooms at cooking as a part of the curriculum but approaching it with a positive mindset and a creative eye will reveal a plethora of meaningful learning experiences. Cooking is after all an essential life skill, as is food management and budgeting.

Cross-curricular links abound from the cooking curriculum. Science: mixing, changing, and separating materials and the use of food for energy. Mathematics: ratio with ingredients and money, measurements. Food as part of History, the geographical origins of fruit, vegetables and of recipes, cultural, social and religious significance of certain foods: the only limit, time and resourcing aside, is the imagination.

So come on primary teachers! What are you waiting for? If you love books, you can inspire a passion for reading; if you are mathematically driven you can engage children in the world of number.

Can we inspire a generation of young foodies?

 [all photos credit @andrew_cowley23]



Author: TeachAldenham

Online profile of TeachAldenham, Aldenham School Teaching and Learning Group. teachaldenham.wordpress.com Find us on twitter @teachaldenham

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