Positive cooking experiences early in life can significantly influence intellectual, physical, mental, and social youth development.
No, I didn’t conduct a study (I’m happy to collaborate if someone wants to…), but I’m 100% confident in the statement above. I’m excited about this, so rather than bombard you with one long essay, I’m dividing ‘When Kids Cook’ into a four-part series focusing on how cooking relates to intellectual, physical, mental, and social development.
I’ve been thinking about how to inspire youth to cook and bake (see my couscous post here). Kitchen experiences are ideal for project-based learning (my interest in experiential learning isn’t a huge surprise if you’re familiar with my alma mater, Hampshire College). Here’s why:
Consider educational frustrations that youth experience during middle/high school. I could write a book on education reform, but for right now just think back to your experience. What were the most memorable and (and probably beneficial) lessons from middle and high school? See if they fit into these four categories:
- flexibility to work alone or in a group/team
- opportunity to apply information to life experiences (the ‘how does this affect me’ question)
- develop a practical product to share with others
- acquire new and transferable skills
When I was a student – I’ll always be a student, but for the sake of example – I would have commented that the lesson qualities above were ‘enjoyable’, ‘didn’t seem like (school) work’, ‘fit my wants/needs’, and were a sign of a ‘good teacher’.
Yes, you guessed it, any positive kitchen experience fulfills all of what I loved – and still love – about project-based learning. There is a huge potential for intellectual development in the kitchen. Want to encourage youth to be curious and engaged? Want to provide alternative tools for students to pursue their interests? Want to make math, chemistry, nutrition, ecology, cultural studies, geography, design, history (I’m sure there are more) fun for students? Try bringing them into a kitchen!
In the coming weeks I will discuss how cooking skills can positively contribute to physical, mental, and social development. I look forward to exploring these topics and I hope to hear some of your knowledge, experiences, and opinions as well.