On any given day, you may smell an assortment of delicious aromas when you are walking the halls at Greenspring Montessori School. This is because students and faculty are often engaged in various cooking and baking activities as part of the Montessori curriculum. To support these efforts, we have a full kitchen in Emerson Village and we have kitchenettes complete with refrigerators, dishwashers, sinks, and prep space in each of the classrooms. Building practical life skills in areas of daily living is a cornerstone of the Montessori Method, and it is also proven to help students develop soft skills. These skills help children learn essential life tasks, such as working well with others, having empathy, and being trustworthy and respectful. To learn more about the importance of soft skills, please take a look at this new article.
Starting with our youngest students, guides and assistants work with toddlers to create snacks for their classroom. Whether they are carefully learning how to cut pieces of carrots using a crinkle cutter or making freshly squeezed orange juice, the children are actively involved in every step of the process. During the warmer months, many classrooms will also plant tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, and more in their outdoor environments, so they children will become familiar with where their food comes from.
At the Children’s House level, students will help to plan larger meals and snacks, and the guides introduce new flavors with the seasons. Instead of always baking comfort foods such as oatmeal cookies or muffins, our guides work to come up with recipes that include fresh and natural ingredients. During the fall, one of our Children’s House classrooms baked acorn squash. In addition to learning about how to use the oven with a classroom assistant, the children also talked about the color of the vegetable, the texture, and the new and interesting flavor!
Additionally, cooking is often a big part of Spanish language enrichment at all levels. Spanish Dual Language Children’s House students work with a parent volunteer each week to prepare mango salsa, pan de elote (a Mexican dish similar to cornbread pudding), and arroz rojo y friojoles de la olla (a Mexican style rice and beans). This is a great way to introduce new vocabulary and new tastes to our children while celebrating other cultures!
In Lower and Upper Elementary, students will often incorporate what they are learning in the classroom with a new recipe. Students in Ms. Sarah’s Spanish Dual Language classroom researched different cultures and shared meals with their entire classroom as part of their presentations. One group made yellow dal, a traditional Indian dish with lentils, while another group created Dulcis Coccora, an ancient Egyptian dessert (Cleopatra’s favorite!) made with honey.
At the Adolescent level, our students have come up with creative ways to grow their student-run business with their work in the kitchen! Several years ago, they started Pizza Fridays, selling pizza by the slice (along with hummus and veggies) every Friday to the students and the faculty. In addition to honing their cooking and prep skills, they also learn to work together, stay organized, and manage money. In addition, the students have built a chicken coop, compost bin, and they are starting a class garden. It is their hope to eventually sell eggs and vegetables to the school community, and even use some of these ingredients in their own cooking.
The joys of cooking with children can extend into your home too. Take a look at our blog on setting up your Montessori kitchen at home and consider trying some of the following this week:
- Take your child to the farmer’s market and pick out one new type of fruit or vegetable to try.
- Flip through a recipe book with your child and let them pick a meal for you to make together.
- Start giving your child a task during meal prep – this could be anything from rinsing the vegetables, to cutting, and eventually even cooking the ingredients.
- Give your child the opportunity to begin cooking, baking, or prepping one meal a day on their own (the younger ones may need some support) – this could be making scrambled eggs for breakfast, packing their own lunch, or preparing a snack when they get home from school.
- Make sure to include clean up in your routine together! – our children love setting the table with real plates and glassware, washing their dishes, and sweeping up crumbs
- Plant a garden – visit the store with your child and pick out seed packets or seedlings together! Children are more likely to try new things when they are involved in growing it themselves.
Kimberly Zerfas is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Greenspring Montessori School. A graduate of the Publications Design M.A. program at the University of Baltimore, Kim loves combining words and images to tell our unique story. She loves creative problem-solving, designing and writing materials that convey in-depth information in new and interesting ways. Learn more about Kim.