Last updated: February 19. 2013 10:41PM - 328 Views

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Abington Heights Middle School Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, Joan Gavigan, taught her 5th grade cooking class Dec. 4 the proper way to measure and mix ingredients to prepare soda fountain treats. She also reviewed stove top safety with students.

When we measure our water, we have to be sure that we check our measurement at eye level on a hard surface, she told her students.

When you follow this recipe, she said, You need to be sure you follow it accurately. If you think, ‘I really like cola and I'm going to add a little bit extra,' that's not a good thing to do because the gelatin won't set. So you have to be sure you follow the recipe exactly.

Gavigan, who has been teaching for 12 years, is also registered dietitian with B.S. in nutrition and family and consumer sciences education. She is part of the middle school's Family and Consumer Sciences team. The team includes Sandi Graham, a coordinator of the family and consumer sciences education program at Marywood University, with 20 years of experience and a B.S. in Family and consumer sciences and an M.S. in sports nutrition; and Linda Wall, a first- year teacher with a B.S. in family and consumer sciences education. Together, they provide 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students with the framework to build a healthier lifestyle through hands- on experience in the kitchen. The curriculum at the middle school encompasses culinary basics, meal planning and discussion of nutrients in meals, sanitation and portion control.

According to Gavigan, in the 5th grade, most recipes are individualized. Children make an individual Chex mix, which allows them to practice dry measurements and oven safety.

The recipes are simple, but touch upon all aspects of cooking, safety as well as proper dishwashing and cleanup. Also as part of the 5th grade curriculum, we learn about the digestive system and review, ‘What's on my plate,' the government program that helps children to learn the importance of fruits and vegetables in our diet.

In the sixth grade, the cooking becomes more complex as students prepare a chicken dinner.

We freeze the components of it (the dinner) and one day the students come in and eat chicken, mashed potatoes, vegetables, biscuits and brownies. In that class, we spend more time on nutrition…

Seventh grade cooking, called Culinary Basics allows students the opportunity to practice more food preparation techniques when they prepare egg dishes, crepes and other recipes.

In 8th grade, the class is called culturally diverse foods, where students will learn about food from different countries.

They prepare tea and scones, Mexican hot chocolate, hummus and cream puffs to name a few recipes, she said.

While the trend is to teach more cooking in schools, Graham said, What happened in the (19)90s, was they were taking away the nutrition, some home economics and family consumer science classes, and now we see more problems with obesity and poor nutrition because a whole generation of people, who are now parents, never really learned the skills themselves.

Over the years, Graham has seen college freshman whose parents never let them cook come in to classes. She said. They had very few (cooking) skills, but yet they're interested in a major in family consumer sciences or dietetics, so hopefully that will pick up…

Cooking at home

One way to help children become more comfortable in the kitchen Graham said, is for parents to cook with them at home.

The bottom line, according to Gavigan and Graham, is to get children to try new foods.

I think when they prepare it; (as in the case of unfamiliar foods, including vegetables) they will be more likely to try it, Gavigan said. One of our goals is to help students to become more comfortable in the kitchen, so they will have the confidence to prepare familiar and unfamiliar recipes. Also we want students to be open to trying new things to be open to taste and experience new foods and most important to understand the link between the foods they select and their health.

Mitch Sheffler, executive director, Programs For Sustainable Change, through his organization's joint venture with Ohio PTA created Cooking Together, Cooking Forever. The program's goal: to effect a change to behaviors in families directly tied to childhood obesity and the health problems.

He said, The goal of Cooking Together, Cooking Forever' is to reinvigorate the time -honored tradition of teaching children a life skill- how to cook good tasting, nutritious meals from fresh ingredients. We believe the decline in this family practice over the last 30 years is directly related to the dramatic increase in this nation's obesity rate over that same period of time.

Just as children must learn reading, writing and math, a quality food education is necessary for the transition to successful, healthy adulthood. And just as those children must have quality teachers to help them succeed, they should also have parents at home to build their foundation in food.

Ten tips for hands -on helpers

Sandi Graham, Abington Heights Middle School Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, suggests children start cooking at home.

* Stir cake or pancake batter

* Crack eggs into a separate bowl before adding to a mix (especially because the first few times may not be shell –free.)

* Safely get foods into and out of the oven

* Make Jell-O and teach how to tell when water is boiling

* Start knife skills by spreading peanut butter on bread. Work up to cutting fruit and vegetables.

* Teach how to use appliances like the microwave and toaster and load the dishwasher.

* Pour liquids into batters or milk into cereal.

* Fry an egg for a good start to using the stove.

* Peel potatoes and carrots and work up to cutting them.

* Teach sanitation and importance of a clean work space.

Cooking with your kids

Joan Gavigan, Abington Heights Middle School Family and Consumer Sciences teacher suggested a recipe from the 5th grade curriculum.

Vegetable Pizza

Yield one 8 by 12 -inch pizza

½ cup bell pepper, shopped

1 onion, medium, chopped

½ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped

2 teaspoons Italian seasonings

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 8 by 12 -inch pizza crust

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ cup low -fat mozzarella cheese, shredded

Sauté onions in a pan in olive oil until they begin to caramelize.

Add green pepper.

When green pepper softens add sundried tomatoes, seasonings, salt and pepper.

Brush the pizza crust with olive oil and spread vegetable mixture over the crust.

Sprinkle pizza with shredded cheese.

Place crust in a 350 degree oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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