New this year, PSA has revamped our culinary program! Tiffany, our full time Kitchen Manager not only prepares snacks throughout the day, they also work with each classroom on a regular basis as a Culinary Specialist.
The Kitchen Projects are done on a sign-up basis, where classrooms may sign up for any or all of the projects offered. We’ve rearranged our kitchen to be more accommodating and accessible to our students.
Cooking can be messy! Recently, all of our classrooms, from our little toddlers to the big Kindergarteners had a chance to make fruit-filled pastries. This project was an opportunity for fine motor exploration as well as sensory exploration, and as expected, many children chose to investigate the ingredients with their hands. From sticky jam to gummy sunbutter or mushy applesauce, engaging with the ingredients through touch allows children to build on their understanding of the ingredients and learn more about their properties. This will be a running theme throughout the projects as children learn what the ingredients of our recipes are and what they do!
Cooking is imperfect and imaginative! Especially when making a recipe as a group for the first time, it might not turn out as expected. When going through this project, some were concerned about children using “too much” filling or not enough. If the child felt unhappy with their pastry-filling ratio, we talked about the ways we can change it to better fit what they want. We can mix the filling into the dough, we scrape it off, or we can even add more dough if it’s available. However, it’s also important for children to have the space to test their ideas. If a child wants to add a lot of jam or sunbutter to their dough, I encourage them to try it. Through trial, and sometimes error, they may learn what they do and do not like. These projects aren’t about ensuring a perfect outcome, it’s about having a space for them to learn how to prepare food. And while we will learn how to follow recipes, that some ingredients are added in small amounts and other in large, we will also explore cooking as a sensory experience and a time for creativity.
In some of our older classrooms, children made a fruit compote for their filling, or made icing to top their baked pastries. Other, younger classrooms were more focused on the sensory experience of the dough, and as such, just used dough and jam.
The Blue Room made their own fruit compote to fill their pastries. They were provided with blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, and chose to include all of them in their mixture. Once the fruit was mixed, they used a masher tool to prepare it for cooking.
We divided the task of making shapes out of dough and making the fruit compote into two tables. The children decided which table they wanted to start at, then we switched halfway through so that all the children would have time to do both activities.
They noticed that the dough felt quite cold, and sticky the more you worked with it! They also talked about how similar it was to the clay they’re currently working with in the Art Studio, and how it was different in the squishiness.
In the Maple Rooms, the children also noticed that the dough would keep its shape when formed, and some children chose to shape their dough into into a ball. The Maple Room decided they wanted to make their dough thin. We talked about how much the dough would expand in the oven and that a rolling pin could be used to make the dough thinner if they wanted it to expand a bit less.
A few children put their dough into the tall metal cookie cutters to shape it. We then talked about how those cookie cutters can actually go into the oven. With that information, one child decided to try it!
They also mixed a few different fillings together. Combinations that some children decided on were jam and honey, and jam with chocolate sunbutter.
The Rainbow Room practiced using plastic and metal cookie cutters! We talked about how they have a “cutting side” and a “holding side”. We also talked about how we many need to move the cookie cutters from side to side in order to cut out our shapes. We found that the holding side left an imprint in the dough, while the cutting side could be used to cut shapes out of the dough. We practiced trial and error in testing out what worked the best for what they wanted.
The Rainbow room, like several other classrooms, also worked with the dough in a similar manner to clay. A few children took pieces of dough between their hands, forming spherical shapes and small coils!
In the youngest classroom, the Silver Room, the children started working with their dough by tearing it into smaller pieces or rolling it up! We talked about how the dough holds it shape when working with it, and can be rolled, squished, or pressed out.
The Silvers practiced scooping out chocolate sunbutter and jam with a mixing spoon, and scraping it onto their pastries. We also practiced opening the honey container, and squeezing it to put honey on the pastry dough.
As with all of the classrooms that did this project, it got pretty messy! We talked about how the mess is okay; it’s a part of cooking!
Afterwards, all had a chance to enjoy our perfectly imperfect treats!
Reflection by Tiffany Sullivan, Kitchen Manager