Here are a few examples of a 5 year old child’s learning in 3 years of learning to cook. These demonstrations of learning are taken from her experience of preparing “apple kesaribath”, a South-Indian semolina pudding sweetened with apples.
- She has learnt several topics of mathematics while measuring out ingredients – including basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction and multiplication for now), fractions, ratios. For this recipe, we needed 1/4 cup of semolina (rava) and double that quantity of water. She was able to accurately measure out a quarter cup of semolina, and then calculated that double of quarter cup would be half a cup. This demonstrates an understanding of multiplication.
- She has demonstrated the spirit of scientific inquiry, through observation of reactions between different ingredients and application of different processes to ingredient. For example: what happens when heat (a process) is applied to applies (an ingredient, a fruit)? She observed that the apples turned from crispy to soft, became stickier, and changed in color from pale yellow to light brown. She observed that cooking apples caused steam, despite not adding water to the pot, and was curious to know why. She asked questions about these reactions, and learnt that apples contain juice (which upon heating produced steam) and sugar (which upon heating caused caramelizing that made the apples turn light brown).
- While preparing this recipe, traditionally served along with a spicy semolina porridge called “upma” or “uppittu” in small street-side cafes called “Darshinis” in Bangalore, Karnataka, she demonstrated a desire to understand culture, asking us to tell us the story of the dish, where the dish comes from, and how to eat it.
These are just a few examples of how cooking integrates education across disciplines, in a manner that makes learning natural, engaging and integrated into real life!
We could feel the isolation slowly becoming the norm today. Of course, I do anticipate days coming up where we get frustrated. However, today felt strangely peaceful. With the lockdown effective starting today, the situation felt oddly stable at least for the next few hours, a feeling we hadn’t felt in several days.
A started off her day with what felt familiar to her – working on language and math, as she would in school. I was very proud of her for independently doing her work as she would in school, asking for help where she needed it.
After lunch and some downtime, we decided to work on something new – Science! Now, A is a preschooler due to start kindergarten in the fall, and while they do a lot of experiments and learn a lot of life skills in school and otherwise, she hadn’t yet come across the word “Science”. A little background about A and Science – while she didn’t know the word Science, she has been performing science experiments and scientific activities for years now, such as:
- Baking chocolate chip cookies – she has been baking with me for years, which is a great lesson in chemistry.
- Star-gazing on clear nights – she loves looking for Venus and Mars on a clear night, and isn’t this astronomy at its best?
- Nature hikes – observing birds, learning about different flora and fauna, these are perfect examples of zoology and botany!
Today, we started formalizing her science education, by building her science vocabulary. The words we learnt today were:
- Science – the study of the world around us!
- Experiment – an activity used to answer a question.
A couple of days ago, she asked me “What are bones?” and “What would happen if our body had no bones?” In order to explain better to her, we performed a simple experiment of filling a plastic bag with a marker and propping the bag up to stand. From this experiment, she learnt that “without bones, we will not be able to stand!” (her words!). Today, we recollected the activity with the plastic bag and marker and I explained to her that that was an experiment!
- Data – the information we learn from the experiment.
In the experiment about bones, the data she gained was that without bones, we cannot stand up.
- Observe – use our senses to notice things.
We went through our five senses and discussed smell, see, touch, hear and taste. We used simple objects around the room and A told me what she observed about each of them – how the eraser felt, how the water bottle sounded when she shook it, and how the marker looked.
- Predict – say what we think will happen.
We made predictions about the world around us, such as predicting what would happen when it gets cloudy outside, or what would happen when we mix yellow and blue.
- Compare – observe what is same and different about two objects.
We took two objects – a blue crayon and a yellow marker, and observed what is same and different about each of them.
These were all relatively new words for intuitive concepts for A. We spent the rest of the evening working on our science vocabulary by including them in our conversation, such as using our senses to make observations about the food we prepared for dinner. We are looking forward to asking a lot of questions, and developing and performing science experiments to get answers!