Cooking for a purpose with early Teenagers

Cooking for a purpose with early Teenagers

As many of you know I am currently teaching in a non montessori class although I am at a different school to last year. This year I am teaching the last years of what is called primary school here in New Zealand, children aged 11-13. A colleague of mine calls what I am doing 'Montessori by stealth' as I am teaching in a Montessori way. 

This last week I have taken the children for Food Technology. Technology is part of the curriculum here in NZ. This is not Technology as in computers but technology as in the process of making something for a particular purpose, adapting it, modifying it and reflecting on whether it has met the purpose. 

Previously the children in my class attended the local high school for an hour a week and rotated through different activities, such as learning to make eggs on toast. This year my primary school decided that Technology would be delivered in school. It was suggested to me I do a week of Technology with my class. I settled on Food for the first unit as I more comfortable teaching that than woodwork or metal work, which I will teach later in the year. 

My class is an eclectic bunch of children including children with English as an additional language, children who live on the poverty line and children with behavioural and learning issues. After quite a bit of juggling, I worked out groups with the children for their Tech week. For some groups, I stated what they were cooking for others I allowed choice and for some I allowed choice within limits for example the group were to make pizza but they could decide what flavours the pizza was.  

I ran the unit like this:

Prior to the week: discussing expectations, gaining student knowledge on what they knew about cooking and who had been food shopping before. Their answers ranged from children who had not been supermarket shopping and didn't know how to make toast to children who cooked full family meals.  

Official Day 1: An introduction to Food Trucks as an inspiration for what we were doing, Designing a static image / finding out a recipe working out amounts

Official Day 2: Similar to day 1

Offical Day 3: cooking for their group of 4-6. There were some leftovers which were eagerly distrubted!

Official Day 4: cooking for the junior school and preparing for cooking for senior school

Official Day 5:  cooking for senior school

I was assisted throughout the week by 2 extra full-time staff thanks to extra staffing funding! 

The groups were as follows

1) Bliss balls and Fruit smoothies (Due to behavioural challenges I chose these groups items as they did not involve knives or sharp objects, this group had an adult with them the whole time)

2) Hot dogs and Juice (this group were originally going to make hamburgers but decided that Hot dogs would be more profitable)

3) Pizza made from scratch (this group decided to make two kinds of Pizza)

4) Chop Suey (this group chose this themselves and made two kinds)

5) Nachos (this group made three kinds of nachos)

 Throughout the week it was humbling to see the level of responsibility, engagement and excitement of the young people. For me, these things were evident because the learning experience was a very real and practical one for the young people. It involved them having a first-hand experience with the outside world and seeing how they could contribute to it. Just look at these things which they did:

- Found out recipes

- Consulted their families about how they cooked particular dishes and asked for advice

- Made advertising which was placed around the school to advertise their product

- Went supermarket shopping and paid for items using a budget,

-Worked out quantities

- Went to the local bulk food warehouse to source packaging

- Made food items ensuring they were of a consistently high quality

- Worked with data

-Labelled packaging so the right item was delivered to the right person

- Plated items so that a fair amount was given to each person.

- Delivered food items to classes

- Tidied up

- The children also did daily reflections on how their day went. These were based around the Key Competencies. For each reflection I asked a series of questions and recorded these orally and in written form. 


Over their two days of bulk production my class of 30 (who were in 5 groups) 

made 125 items for the  junior school and 215 items for the  senior school

My class border the second and third planes of development. One thing I have been pondering recently is the age of Puberty. As the age of puberty decreases, I feel many of Montessori's words regarding the third plane, and her pedagogical ideas should be considered by the teacher of the second plane. The following Montessori quotes have been particularly pertinent to me as I reflect on the success of this activity. 

...derive great personal benefit from being initiated in economic independence. For this would result in a "valorization" of his personality, in making him feel himself capable of succeeding in life by his own efforts and on his own merits, and at the same time, it would put him in direct contact with the supreme reality of social life. We speak therefore of letting him earn money by his own work. (From Childhood to Adolescence, p. 65) 

"Productive work and a wage that gives economic independence, or rather constitutes a first real attempt to achieve economic independence, could be made with advantage a general principle of social education for adolescents and young people." (From Childhood to Adolescence, p. 66)

"Independence, in the case of the adolescents, has to be acquired on a different plane, for theirs is the economic independence in the field of society. Here, too, the principle of "Help me to do it alone!" ought to be applied." (From Childhood to Adolescence, p. 67)

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