Adding a course to the holiday meal

Learning: Teachers are serving lessons in reading, math and history between turkey and pumpkin pie.

November 25, 1999|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

Thanksgiving raises some of life's deeper questions.

How do you know the bird isn't overcooking? How much should the pie filling be stirred? White or dark meat? Baked or mashed?

Don't be stressed. As a group of 5-year-olds is learning, those facing such daunting decisions today are quite lucky. It means they can probably read well enough to cook.

Friendship Valley Elementary kindergarten classes in Westminster spent this week preparing a menu for a Thanksgiving feast and cooking. Yesterday, after reading " `Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving," they dressed as pilgrims and Indians and enjoyed their supper at 9 a.m. (They attend morning kindergarten).

Teacher Anne Kyker said she used the meal to teach the children how important reading is -- for example, in scanning recipes and identifying ingredients. Kyker's class finalized its menu Tuesday morning. But first, word work.

"Let's get your mouth ready for `menu,' " said Kyker. "Mmm-ehh-enn-yuu," said all two dozen pupils sitting cross-legged on alphabet carpeting. Kyker then asked who remembered menu items they had been discussing.

"Grapes," said Sam Karabaich.

"No, not grapes," said Kyker.

Five-year-old Dean Kidd nailed the answer: "Turkey." After everyone sounded it out -- ttt-urr-kkk-eee -- it was time to cook.

The day's task was to make corn pudding. Also on the menu was cranberry (crr-ann-ber-eee) sauce, stuffing, (stt-uhh-fff-ing, pumpkin pie (puh-umm-ppp-kin) and the turkey.

Kyker gathered a group of pupils at a table covered with ingredients, each in a small container ready to be added to the large mixing bowl.

The teacher had written the corn pudding recipe as a poem: "Break the egg, pour the milk, add the sugar, flour and corn. Dash of salt, stir it up, early in the morn. Bake it in the oven. Eat it while it's hot. What a tasty dish -- you will like it a lot."

While adding ingredients and stirring them, pupils were given laminated word strips, which they matched to lines of the poem.

Real applications

"What we try to do in kindergarten is authentic reading and writing," said Kyker. "By looking at recipes, they see you need reading in the real world."

Five-year-old Tommy Banz said he is an expert at egg-cracking, even though he was asked to pour the milk.

"Sometimes I can crack it and hold it together until I get to the table," Tommy said. Asked for further explanation, Tommy, wearing a pilgrim hat, was distracted by an Indian dance classmates were doing across the room. Not wanting to hurt any feelings, he broke away politely.

"I have to go put my hat in the box," he said.

Integrating subjects

According to Althea Franklin, an early learning specialist at the State Department of Education, many kindergarten teachers statewide use the holiday in their teaching by reading books, studying history and, in some cases, cooking meals.

Franklin said the holiday offers a good opportunity to integrate subject areas, such as reading, social studies, character development, math, and food and nutrition.

During "Math Minute" at Friendship Valley this week, Kyker had her pupils create a graph that showed their favorite menu items. (Pumpkin pie won easily, with 14 votes.)

`A Kodak moment'

At Hereford Middle School in Baltimore County, a special education class of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders spent weeks learning to shop for groceries, make invitations on computers and cook an enormous holiday meal. The 10 pupils and their guests ate Tuesday afternoon.

"It was touching, a Kodak moment," Assistant Principal Cathy Walrod said. "We were all in tears."

Feasting

At Friendship Valley's morning supper yesterday, Kyker's pupils -- and the school's other morning kindergarten class -- set up plates, plastic utensils and cups, donated by parents, at a long table in one of the school hallways.

Then they dug in.

For some, it was gratifying to swallow corn pudding they had made themselves. For others, cooking was nothing new.

"I've made peanut butter and jelly crackers," said 5-year-old Molly Marshall. "It was a long time ago."

Pub Date: 11/25/99

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