Newton School students show off culinary prowess

Greenfield School Department and the Food Bank collaborate on six-week program

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/3/2016 10:07:26 PM

GREENFIELD — They begged for Shepherd’s Pie, said Newton School teacher Jami Witherell, and that’s exactly what they got.

The school’s fourth graders showed off the new cooking skills they’ve picked up through the school’s six-week Cooking Matters program recently, with a dinner of the popular meat-and-potatoes dish, prepared by the students specially for their parents.

The event, a collaboration between the Greenfield School Department and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, included a graduation where students received an apron, a cookbook and a certificate of achievement.

“It was absolutely incredible,” said Witherell. She said her students considered the series of cooking lessons, which started with a lesson in quesadilla-craft, the most anticipated part of the week.

“I got to sit back and watch them use the skills that I teach them in a more academic setting in a real-life setting,” she said. “I’m teaching fractions right now, and one of them stopped and said ‘Wait, like if you use a measuring cup?’ It’s a practical application.”

She said research has shown that such hands-on experience really improves student’s other academic learning experiences. That, and it’s likely to get students and their parents involved in doing some activities together and foster relationships, Principal Melodie Goodwin previously told The Recorder.

The students also learned to mix up a ranch dressing from scratch to top the salad they served, Witherell said. About 30 people attended the event Thursday.

She said collaborations with outside service organizations through grant funding, like the Cooking Matters event, are always beneficial to the students.

“It’s a chance to cook and learn, but it’s also a chance to see that the community cares about them,” she said. “Cooking matters, but kids matter, too.”

The program was part of a national model run by Share Our Strength, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-hunger organization.

You can reach Tom Relihan at:
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