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    Together Time: Cultivating Community through Cooking in Our ECE


    10 Mar, 2017

    10 : 00

    • Early Childhood Education students at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing have been cooking up a variety of tasty snacks during their Together Time, an open-ended time of discovery and play each morning that allows students to pursue whatever activity they want with any of their ECE classmates. It’s been a fruitful experience for all of them, and not just because of the delicious treats they get to enjoy at the end; cooking provides our little learners with a myriad of soft skills that benefit them as they grow up.

      Dana Carnemolla, one of our Western co-teachers in K3, shared with us the cooking activities students have taken part in as well as the benefits students receive. 

      Please introduce the cooking class activity.

      One of our children’s parents came in this week to make baozi during Together Time with our students. Children used different tools, such as chopsticks and rolling pins, to shape their dough, then filled the dough with red bean paste using a spoon, and finally using their fingers to pinch it closed before steaming.

      Some of the children also decided to make baozi animals, including a whale shark, a turtle, a bunny, and a dinosaur. Children then used black rice, peanuts, and other ingredients to add the eyes, nose, mouth, and other features to their animals.

      Why was this activity chosen?

      Our ECE children have really enjoyed cooking experiences this year. They’ve tried their hand at a variety of recipes throughout the year, including candy floss, pancakes, noodles, moon cakes, and dumplings.

      To expand on the activity and get parents involved, we invited families to share their recipes and even join us in leading small group cooking activities during our Together Time.

      What have been some of the recipes parents have shared?

      We’ve just recently begun a project for a combined cookbook! So far, we’ve gotten recipes for Marshmallow Rice Krispy Treats, Baozi, and a Spanish dessert. Furthermore, we’ve received many requests from our parents for small group cooking with the children with recipes to be decided throughout this long term project. We love the active parents we have here at YCIS Beijing!

      What is an easy and fun recipe you can recommend that parents can undertake with their children at home?

      While not edible, making play-dough is a simple and excellent recipe for endless playtime possibilities. You can make it with your children and then join them as they explore the many different ways it can be used. They can roll it out into snakes or noodles, use it with cookie cutters, or build animals with it, just to name a few!

      What benefits do students and parents receive from participating in this activity?

      Cooking provides plenty of opportunities to learn. Children begin to develop literacy skills by following a recipe provided. Having the recipe written out conveys the message that words have meaning; we also provide visual cues to assist them (just like reading a book). The children have been exposed to lots of new vocabulary and words through these activities.

      Children are also learning about numeracy, e.g. through the different steps to carrying out a recipe. This requires them to show an understanding of number sequence, i.e. understanding that you cannot go to Step 5 until you have completed Steps 1-4. It’s also a great way to introduce measurement tools, as kids have a great time measuring out a cup of flour or a tablespoon of oil.

      The act of cooking imparts all sorts of valuable soft skills. Working together to accomplish a goal improves their collaboration skills, while sharing cooking utensils improves their understanding of waiting their turn.

      Cooking also enhances students’ physical development by refining their fine motor skills through various actions like twisting off a cap of oil or rolling out dough. These actions in turn help with actions they’d perform in school like holding a pencil, paintbrush, etc.

      Finally, having the parents join us is a wonderful chance for them to see what learning is happening during our together time, strengthening our bond with the families and the sense of community we value so highly here at YCIS Beijing!

      How does this activity align with the key concepts of YCIS Beijing Learning Community?

      A few of our key missions within our Learning Community include fostering a multi-age classroom, close partnership with families, and creating a shared learning space that follows children’s interests. These cooking activities are very much in line with these integral Learning Community concepts!

      How does this seek to promote YCIS Beijing’s “Best Blend of East and West?”

      Through these activities, children have the opportunity to explore different cultures, techniques, and flavors from around the world. Additionally, the children are exposed to both English and Chinese in a meaningful way during the cooking process.