Global creativity for control freaks

11th November 2005 at 00:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: Have your cake and eat it

Cooking in the classroom - the perfect blend of learning style and activity, process and product, teaching and learning... Oh, for goodness sake - it's just fun isn't it? It's what primary teaching is all about. It used to be simple, but there are quite a lot of precautions that have to be taken these days. If you're seriously into control, you will have done your allergy check on all your pupils and probably decided that peanut butter sushi is out. Then you will have done your lecture about washing hands before, during and after any contact with utensils.

You will also know that, thanks to the shadow of salmonella looming over every egg, there will be absolutely no licking of the spoon whatsoever.

Then there are the risk assessments, the school's policy for parental contributions towards the cost of ingredients - many reasons not to cook, but let's take back control and do these fun things.

This week and next week, I want to share with you two ways in which food has helped to globalise the classroom, while giving me and the class a great time. This week, it's cakes. There are excellent ways to show your class that they rely on different parts of the world every day and food ingredients are one of the most straightforward. As part of our harvest celebrations this year, I gathered all the ingredients for a cake, carefully checking labels for the country of origin. With my trusty "Google Earth" on screen behind me, we added one ingredient at a time, then zoomed around the world to look at the country of origin. Butter from New Zealand, sugar from Mauritius, honey from Brazil, raisins from California, all-spice from the Caribbean, as well as home grown flour and eggs laid in a local farm. All of it went into our "World Cake".

We brought in some science as we thought about reversible and irreversible change. We talked about how all the ingredients would merge in the cooking into a cake with a unique flavour and texture. We wouldn't be able to separate the honey from the flour, the butter from the sugar. Ingredients from around the world would be united in a single cake. We thought about the bees buzzing in that Brazilian hive and the cows munching on the grass on the other side of the world. It felt a real privilege to make that cake, and we talked about the people around the world to whom we owed gratitude.

The real joy came, of course, when we ate it. The aroma of baking filled the school and the still warm fruit cake filled us with pleasure. We joined together in a chorus of "Thank you", and for just a moment knew what a privilege it was to live in a part of the world where we really could have our cake and eat it.

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School, Leicester Email: primary@tes.co.uk

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