Children board our imaginary airplane with passports in hand and we travel to a new country each week. We locate our destination on the globe, "stamp" our passport books with flag stickers, and begin our adventure! We prepare and taste the local cuisine and learn about the culture, people and the natural and fabricated environment of our host country. While our snack is in the oven we discuss different aspects of our destination. We may touch upon the history, environment or topographical phenomenon.
Each cooking class will feature a LETTER OF THE DAY. We combine the joy of cooking with the art of language. Our young chefs use a variety of kitchen tools from the standing mixer to rolling pins, blenders and more. Children engage in lots of hands-on experience. Yes, messes are made but we love it! While our snack cooks we will read stories, do crafts, and play games that integrate our letter of the day – from painting and pastels, to yoga and movement activities. We dabble in science experiments and matching games, songs and more.
We take advantage of the freshest ingredients to whip up a variety of foods, from apple turnovers and pumpkin bread in the fall, to gingerbread spice cake and veggie pot pies in the winter. We round out spring with lemon poppy seed muffins, pea crostinis, butterfly crackers and more. We take time to celebrate holidays from around the world. We make naan with mint chutney for Diwali, fortune cookies for the Chinese New Year, red velvet cupcakes for Valentine's Day, Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's Day, and guacamole for Cinco de Mayo. While our snack cooks, we commemorate the season or holiday with coordinating activities, crafts, stories, movements, or songs.
We discuss the agriculture practice of companion planting, using The Three Sisters (maize, beans and squash) as an example. We consider how each crop benefits from the close proximity of the other two. The broad squash leaves shade the soil, inhibiting weed growth and preventing moisture loss. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria that inhabit legume roots convert atmospheric nitrogen into inorganic compounds that fertilize the plants. And the corn stalks provide a trellis for the beans to climb. We learn about the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan and explore the wondrous Chinampas (Floating Gardens) that allowed the Aztec empire to flourish. We discuss how the Aztecs fabricated and farmed the islands and how they harvested fish and waterfowl from the canals. We close the class by creating our very own Aztec Sun Stone.
For our snack we prepare Guacamole. We discuss the ingredients and note that the citrus (lime) helps to prevent the avocado from oxidizing (browning). We look at and sample cilantro and parsley and note that although they appear similar, they taste VERY different. Everyone has the opportunity to hone their fine motor skills slicing and dicing tomatoes!
We look at the globe and note that the United States is comprised of 48 contiguous states and that Alaska and Hawaii are the only two non-contiguous states. We observe Alaska's northern latitude and through a hands-on demonstration we discuss why Alaska is subject to about 60 days of consecutive darkness in the winter and about 80 days of consecutive lightness in summer. We read Under Alaska's Midnight Sun and everyone has the opportunity to go "fishing" with their very own fishing pole! We prepare Baked-Alaskan Mini Meringues and observe how the egg whites change color and increase in volume tremendously after incorporating air from the mixer. We smell the vanilla and discuss how the cream of tartar helps the egg whites to hold their shape. Everyone has the opportunity to pipe their own cookies using a pastry bag. Prior to piping we observe the different piping tips and guess which shape meringue would result from each tip.
We locate China on the continent of Asia and prepare Chinese New Year Cakes, which portend good luck in the New Year. We crack eggs and take turn whisking them with milk. We add rice flour and note that rice is a staple of Asian cuisine. Prior to revealing its identity, we pass a bottle of coconut extract around the table and guess the scent. While our New Year Cakes bake in the oven, we define the world symbolism and discuss the importance of symbolism in Chinese culture. We search for contemporary examples and identify the American flag as a symbol of the United States. While reading the book The Empty pot, we search for symbols to decipher and we find butterflies (longevity), cherry blossoms (wisdom and bravery), cranes (immortality) and dragons (strength and good luck). We discuss the moral of the story and the importance of being truthful. We close the class with a bean-bag toss game of "Feed the Dragon."