Sunday, March 21, 2010

Learning authentically...

Bob Wilkins - Professional Storyteller from the UK
Darren Shan - Author from Ireland.

Last week was a busy week - we had a professional storyteller in to tell stories to year 1 and year 4 to support their "How we express ourselves through stories" units, I took a small group of students to listen to Darren Shan talk about his books, and I went on camp for 4 days with year 8.

I am going to elaborate a little on the camp and life skills for these young people.

The camp was geared around helping the students learn new skills and become a little more independent and confident in their own abilities. There were numerous activities undertaken to reach these goals - a 14km trek to sleep in a tent which they had to put up, prepare their own camp food and then back everything up and return. Other activities included some fun stuff like dragon boat racing, kayaking and canadian canoeing, orienteering. There was also the cooking activity which I was part of.

In HK many families have what is termed a "live in domestic helper" who does all the household chores. This means that many children do not need to clean up after themselves, cook food, wash dishes or do much for themselves and this makes for an interesting independent cooking activity.

Each camp evening a group of 25 students were divided into 7 groups, and given some ingredients from which they were to make a meal for themselves and 3-4 of their friends. They had to eat the food they cooked as there were no extras. The teaching staff were on hand to help with guidance, safety and to answer questions, but they were not to cook for the students. The groups had 10 minutes to plan what ingredients they were going to use, and how they were going to cook it. They had a one pot, a gas cooker, a foil tray, a wooden spoon, one cutting board and one sharp knife as their cooking utensils. We were outside. We had about 90minutes to produce something edible.

This activity was quite interesting for all concerned - some of the questions and comments

"I have never cooked for other people before"
"How much food do we need for 8 people?"
"Has anyone cooked before? I have only seen someone else do it"
"We have to wash our own plates?"
"That isn't my mess"
"How do you use this?" (a can opener)
"Have you got a band aid miss - I cut myself"

A couple of learning points came out of this :

12 year olds are quite capable of creating something edible when given the challenge, with very little input from adults other than providing the ingredients.

12 year olds are very capable of collaborating and working harmoniously together on something very important such as food.

12 year olds are capable of washing up and cleaning up their own mess with a lot of direction from adults (after 4 days they were quite proficient at it)

12 year olds can learn that you need to cook meat longer than vegetables and some vegetables take longer to cook than others. Pasta takes ages to cook if you do not have a really hot flame and tastes disgusting if over cooked or left in the water too long. They also learned that cooking actually takes a long time to prepare, and it just doesn't magically appear on the table.

!2 year olds really enjoy making food for others!

12 year olds will not complain about the food on camp if their friends cook it!

It was a great inquiry activity and the kids learned so much more than if we had given them directions on how to do it. No one went hungry, there were no real disasters, and there was no food thrown away due to being inedible.

So - the moral of the story - give the kids a go - they will rise above your expectations if you give them authentic opportunities!

1 comment:

Peter Tobey said...

Congratulations. Your blog has been nominated for our Library Blog Awards. In fact, your blog was suggested more than once. We're in the process of assembling information about all those nominated and will be sending a short questionaire, including the categories of awards and the judges involved. Would you please send me your email address so that I can send you the questionnaire? If your email is on your blog, I couldn't locate it.

Thanks in advance,
Peter W Tobey
ptobey@salempress.com