“A Bread Baking Angel in Disguise”
This week in our Preschool we started our first cooking project of the year, and for many in our class this was the first time they had ever made fresh homemade bread. As a cooking teacher, it is my joy to create an easy experience in the kitchen. Preschoolers are no exception to this rule. We just have to make the experience real at their level of development, and something that they can easily relate to and understand.
The very first question I like to ask the students is: “How many of you get to cook at home?” Most of the students love to answer this question. They throw up their hands, calling,” I do, I do.”
My next question is, “How many students do we have here today?” This immediately sets the tone, for counting the numbers in the classroom creates a magnetism of excitement. In the Education for Life philosophy and the flow learning created by, Joseph Cornell /Sharing Nature Foundation, this is the stage called “Awaken Enthusiasm.”
I begin to explain to the children that we are in a classroom setting, and though we are going to have fun, this is different from cooking at home. I set the ground rules for washing hands: Hands are washed every time the hands go to their mouths or any other parts of their bodies. I immediately sing a song about this topic, and we wash our hands. This starts off the good habits that all children need to be aware of while cooking.
This first day in the kitchen was about showing them how we were going to play what I call the cooking game. This is the "Focused Attention" stage.
I pre-make small cards, drawing small pictures of the recipe steps, and have each child choose their own card. This works like magic. The children wait for their turn and their own step in the cooking process.
As each child waits, I try to let them stir, say prayers, or bless the adventure as we begin.
I also love to make up a story about the process for young children. Sometimes it is a fairy tale or just an event that they can grasp—whatever will move fast and keep their attention.
Today’s story was about a young baby. We had to create the warm bath for the baby, which represented the water in the recipe. The bubbles were added to the water, a metaphor for the yeast. Then we mixed and played in the bath water.
We added some food, which was brown sugar and flour. We then had to have the baby rest from her bath and take a nap. The bread needed to rise. So we gave it a blankie—a covering for the dough.
The day progressed along these lines, keeping their attention. “Have you ever had your mother tell you that you needed to rest so that you would grow?” I asked as the bread dough rose and expanded. They all looked at me with an amazed twinkle in their eyes.
“As the baby wakes up from his nap, he has to exercise, just like we do,” I explained. After kneading and “exercising” the bread, the dough-baby took another nap. After two naps, it was ready to shape into small buns.
The children were very proud of their bread, and had many people they wanted to share it with. Throughout the morning we sang the song, “All the World is my Friend.”
Later, as I was cleaning my classroom, I walked over to my desk. There, to my surprise, an “Angel” had left a beautiful bread book by; Ann Morris and photographed by Ken Heyman. This is a panoramic view about sharing bread and how many countries make bread throughout the world.
As a teacher, you never know how you will be “connecting the dots,” as they say, but my angel seemed to deepen the experience of bread-making for my students. She had a very close eye and open ear.
We do a ritual in our classroom at the closing of each day. It is called “Shared Inspiration.” By this point in the day, the students were feeling calmly exhilarated. We set a short time for each student to share their favorite activity of the day. This morning activity led to a unanimous, response from all the children. The bread making warmed their hearts and their tummies.
As our first day of cooking came to a close, the room and hallways were filled with the smell of sweet warm bread. This sparked much sharing, and many conversations about happy bread-baking memories as the mothers picked up their children from Preschool. Bread and bread-making are a part of many ancient traditions. What an inspiring delight to share this age-old skill with our Living Wisdom community. In deep gratitude, we all felt blessed by the angels all around us.