By Catherine Swanson, Lower Elementary Teacher
We are so fortunate to have full kitchens in the classrooms, and ours is getting plenty of good use. This year Thursday is cooking day, and I love hearing the squeals of joy as the young chefs wash their hands, preparing for the fun ahead.
Quickbreads were first. After we read over recipes together, we located ingredients, mixing bowls, and measuring cups, and got to baking.
“I’ve never cracked an egg before. I don’t want to get the gooey stuff all over my hand.”
“I think we forgot to add the baking powder.”
“Let’s all take a turn using the electric hand mixer.”
Cooking is Montessori practical life in action. The small, mixed-age groups divided themselves up naturally to prepare two loaves of bread. Often a third-year student would pair up with a younger child, reading the recipe with confidence and gently guiding their younger partner to “use the back of a knife this way” to measure flour. Six to nine-year-olds are very capable bakers. With a quick lesson, they are able to squeeze and zest lemons, remove bits of shell after cracking an egg, measure wet ingredients such as milk and vanilla, and use an electric hand mixer safely. Sometimes the recipe called for a cup of brown sugar, but the other group had the one cup measuring cup. Some students would wait, while others would pull out the half or third cup measurer and add fractions. Cleaning up is part of the baking process, and our kitchen always sparkles after a cooking session. Students negotiate the different jobs of washing and rinsing dishes, cleaning the counters, and sweeping the floor. There is nothing better than hearing the cheerful conversations of children as they wash dishes together while standing on stools at the sink. Usually about half-way through the cleaning process, delicious smells start coming from the oven, which only adds to the excitement.
On Friday afternoons, students practiced grace and courtesy as they served banana bread, apple-cinnamon bread, or pumpkin bread to the class. While everyone loved tasting the delicious treats, this shared experience also brought our classroom together as a community.
Now that all the students have gotten a chance to practice reading a recipe, measuring ingredients, and working as a team, we are on to learning how to make breakfast. Who knows, maybe someday soon they will be whipping up scrambled eggs and pancakes for the whole family at home.