'Cooking With Kids' Brings Home Ec Back Into Schools

By:Michele Wolfson

Home Economics class has always had the reputation as an archaic schoolroom experience which had led many schools to remove it from their curriculum. Yet, the general idea of teaching children how to cook in school should in fact be re-examined.

With some updates, home economics class could be a valuable tool in the fight against obesity and can teach kids that cooking is an important way to maintain good health. This notion has brought cooking back to some schools across the country. In Santa Fe, NM, fourth graders prepared Ethiopian-style lentils, accompanied by Injera bread, couscous, and cucumber salad for their lunch as part of a nutrition education program called Cooking with Kids. Programs like these can not only expand kids' palates, but can also provide our youth with a hands-on activity that enhances problem solving skills and critical thinking they will need to have throughout their lives.

Cooking with Kids is a program that educates students on so many levels. It can enable a child who is a picky eater to try something out of their comfort zone because they made it themselves. It also teaches kids that eating high quality food shouldn't be a privilege, but rather an everyday right. Teachers from this program are also giving a lesson in geography by asking kids to locate the countries whose cuisine is studied, on a map; such as Ethiopia in the case of the Santa Fe students.

Students in the cooking classes reported stronger social interactions with classmates. "The collective pride in working together to prepare a meal was really valuable," says Leslie Cunningham-Sabo to NPR, a nutrition researcher at Colorado State University. It has also been reported that Slow Foods USA is working with a variety of schools as well around the country that have on-site kitchens for food-related curriculum. It's also refreshing that these programs are breathing new life into home economics by breaking the stereotype that the course is aimed primarily towards girls and meant to confine women to domestic roles.

Between stocking a pantry, furnishing and maintaining a home, caring for children, and managing a budget to take care of it all, there are a lot of issues a person has to juggle in order to make a home function smoothly. Perhaps this program could be useful to students who will one day find this information very relevant. These life lessons can be taught in newly-improved home economics classes in schools if this nation looked for ways to implement programs like Cooking with Kids into their curriculum.

Photo: fotomicfoto

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