Is Cooking in the Classroom Making a Comeback?

Fourth graders in Santa Fe prepared a lunch feast for themselves as part of a nutrition education program called Cooking with Kids. And nutrition experts say programs like this one are not just about expanding timid kids’ palates, writes Allison Aubrey at NPR.

Some schools are kicking against common consensus by bringing back cooking in our schools. NPR reported earlier in the year as home economics classes have been steadily phased out in recent years. But a new study at the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour that evaluates cooking curriculum says these hands-on classes do more than just prepare students to cook a decent meal.

“Teachers and principals are seeing how the classroom cooking experience helps support critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills,” says study author Leslie Cunningham-Sabo, a nutrition researcher at Colorado State University.

Cooking With Kids teachers try to diversify their lessons. Incorporating subjects like geography into their lessons — like asking kids to find Ethiopia on the map. They also could build in math: for example, graphing favorite foods based on classroom surveys or doubling recipes and converting grams to ounces.

Students reported stronger social interactions with classmates in these cooking class environments.

“The collective pride in working together to prepare a meal was really valuable,” says Cunningham-Sabo.

Of course, one study is not enough to prove that in-school cooking helps support the learning of core academics. But Aubrey points out that proponents say more research is underway as administrators and policy-makers explore all kinds of options for reversing the obesity epidemic.

Many organizations are embracing cooking in class. Slow Foods USA is working with a variety of schools around the country that have on-site kitchens for food-related curriculum. And another school cooking model is the Share Our Strength’s after-school program Cooking Matters.

In wanting to incorporate the creative aspects of cooking with normal curriculum based teaching, many schools want to bring cooking back into the classroom.