This is the third year that the Abundance Project has partnered with Percy Centennial Public School to provide cooking classes to the Grade 8 students. Once a week a portion of the class walks from the school to the kitchen at St. Paul’s UC to be mentored by a number of volunteer community members who teach everything from basic food handling and kitchen skills to making bread or quiche. The focus is always on fresh foods and healthy choices and hands on learning.
Several weeks ago, Mrs. Anderson asked her students to write a short essay about the cooking classes and what the classes meant to them personally. Mrs. Anderson shared a number of these essays with me, and I wanted to share them with the wider community. Included are two full essays, and extracts from several others that refer to important benefits of the program.
Cooking Class Reflections
as written by the Grade 8 students in May 2016
Cooking class has really helped me to realize that cooking and eating healthy are two really great things that you can do for your body. It has also helped me realize that eating healthy isn’t bad at all. If you cook the right dish and you cook it well it can be a very delicious meal. Dave and all of the other people that came and helped were really nice and make the whole experience much more fun.
I have made some of the things we made in class at home. For example, chilli, quesadillas, healthy pizza and quiche with leeks. I’ve also noticed that eating healthy really does make you feel good, as well as giving you more energy than - for example - a hotdog warmed up in the microwave. It feels really good to help my mom make dinner, and it’s very easy once you get the hang of it. It’s pretty amazing; to make a meal and listen to your family talk and bond over it at the dinner table.
Overall, cooking class was a really great experience that I’m glad I had the chance to take part in. Without it, my poor mom would still be working in the kitchen all by herself and I would be much less healthy.
Cooking class was a lot of fun and I personally learned a lot. We learned skills to use in the kitchen. Everyone enjoyed different parts of each class. I think everyone tried at least one new food. Cooking class is something everyone should do.
We learned to do a lot of things. We learned how to communicate in the kitchen so nobody gets hurt. Everything we learned from appliance skills to preparing food was important. I think my favourite skill is knife skills. Sometimes the big knives can be a little bit scary so learning how to properly use them is very important.
Should we keep doing this? (To me this question includes high school.) I think we should judo it because in university we will need to know how to save money yet eat healthy. Everybody should know how to cook, it’s not just women that cook now. It is important to learn these skills so that you don’t get hurt in the kitchen.
The cooking classes got people to try new foods. Usually people don’t try new foods and we didn’t have a choice. Some of the new foods we tried, we really liked. Mathew had never had oranges and learned he liked them. I learned that I only like cooked onions not raw ones.
The following are short extracts for five different student essays
The cooking class was an amazing experience for me! Making all these different foods was very exciting because it lets us figure out what foods we like that are healthy for us. I learned many things like how to hold the knife properly, how to use the knife properly, how to dice food properly, and how our fingers should be shaped when cutting foods. I think that Mrs. A should keep doing cooking classes because other students should be able to enjoy the same experiences that this class got to!
Getting to know the cooking skills of all the students in the class was very interesting because I got to see a whole other side to my peers!
I definitely recommend that you do this experience. You will learn and taste new things. I tried new things that I thought I would never like, but now I love them.
I am very thankful to the wonderful volunteers of Warkworth who have volunteered their time to teach us how to cook, so we can have a brighter future.
Cooking class was an adventure. It does something that will help me in the future for sure. Eating healthy and not paying a fortune I can see is easier than I originally thought.
Everything I tried was new, all things I have had before but this was a healthier version of it so it was new to me.
Stepping into the church for the first time I didn’t know what to expect or what to do but now I have more confidence. I still need some guidance but I now know how to cook some healthy dishes.
I enjoyed cooking class. It helped me realize how bad I am at cooking and how much pain my parents go though to make me my food. I never realized what it takes to prepare food that the whole family will like.
I also asked Mrs. Anderson to write a letter of support that could be used by the Abundance Project as we apply for funding to keep this and other programs running. Her letter highlights a number of benefits of the program that go well beyond just the transfer of cooking skills.
I am writing to let you know how important the Abundance Project is to the grade 8 students at Percy Centennial. Thanks to you and the Abundance Project initiative we have been able to cook on a weekly basis. Learning how to cook a variety of healthy foods is essential for success in life. The students have built the classroom community by working together in a non-traditional setting. The program ties directly in to the healthy living curriculum mandated by the ministry of education. The Abundance Project has achieved only positive outcomes.
The students have learned how to cook a variety of healthy vegetarian meals to show them how to eat well on a budget. This is to teach them to make smart food choices based on nutritional value but also to cook cheaply. They have learned essential preparation skills, including how to properly use an assortment of knives. It has been amazing to see how students will try foods that they have never tried before. Many of the students report making the meals at home after they have learned how to make them in class.
One of the best things for me to see has been the community building that has come from cooking together in a non-traditional learning environment. Because we cook in groups of 6 – 7 students that change frequently students are getting to know each other better. When we stand around the counter preparing a meal that we will share it allows students to open up and just talk to each other. Learning in a setting outside of the school with volunteers from the community allows students to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Some students really shine at cooking who may struggle with learning in a classroom environment. It is great for students to see each other’s strengths.
The Healthy Living curriculum mandates that we teach about different types of nutrients, evaluate personal food choices, and identify strategies for promoting healthy eating. The Abundance Project covers all of these expectations. The students have been able to learn about super foods, we have learned to read labels, we have promoted trying new foods and a variety of other integral components of thinking about what we are eating. The volunteers are knowledgeable in these areas and share their expertise with the students.
There has not been one negative aspect to the grade 8’s participating in the Abundance Project. We even get exercise walking to and from the United Church. It is wonderful for the students. It is appreciated by the parents. It is valued by me, the grade 8 teacher, who sees her students learning in a hands on way that cannot be met within the confines of the school walls.
Thanks for your hard work. It does not go unnoticed.
As one of the volunteers stated “thanks so much for sharing this with us! It was very heartwarming almost brought a tear to my eye!” The Grade 8 cooking classes have brought joy and pleasure to everyone involved. We are working hard to make sure that the funds are available to continue the program next year.