Should schools teach children how to cook?
Extra-curricular activities are getting the axe at some public schools, but others have embraced cooking as a skill kid should know.
In recent years, art, music and physical education or recess time have been cut in many school districts due to low funding. However, some schools have implemented cooking classes as an elective for students. Is this a good use of school funding? Some might disagree, but cooking teaches students much more than just how to boil water. Here are some reasons more schools should teach kids kitchen skills.
Cooking teaches kids about healthy foods.
You can’t cook food with chicken nuggets or potato chips or snacks. When you cook, you use whole ingredients without preservatives or additives or coloring (unless you’re frosting a cake!). It’s possible that some students may not even see whole fruits or vegetables in their homes, so being exposed to them at school is essential. Learning to cook your own meals helps kids understand that healthy eating is important, and healthy foods come from whole ingredients, not from a box or bag.
How to deal with emergencies.
Not everything is always smooth sailing when it comes to cooking, as any home or restaurant chef will tell you. Between the heat and the sharp knives, things can go wrong. But that means kids can learn courage under fire — literally — and what to do in an emergency. Namely, stay calm and go get help. If a pan catches fire, students learn to snuff it out using a pan cover. If someone burns themselves, run the burn under water. Same for cuts, run under water and apply pressure. Then, ask an adult for help.It’s not easy to stay calm in situations like these, but in cooking, it’s essential.
Cooking teaches children to help out at home.
Most kids take for granted that food just appears at mealtimes. If they get instruction on actually cooking their own food, it’s likely they’ll appreciate the effort parents make at home all the more. Cooking meals take planning, time and effort, and when children take on those responsibilities for themselves, it engenders more appreciation for the effort parents put in at home. It’s also likely that they will want to show off their skills to their parents, and will offer to make a meal or two every once in a while, crossing a few things off Mom and Dad’s to-do list.
Why food safety is important.
One of the most important things cooking teaches kids is about food-borne illness. They’ll learn about illnesses like salmonella, listeria, E. coli, and other potentially dangerous bacteria that come from spoiled foods and cross-contamination. This can help your kids stay vigilant about what’s OK to eat in the refrigerator and can save you a lot of grief, either in the bathroom or in the hospital.
How to respect authority.
Cooking classes are sometimes taught by seasoned restaurant chefs that came up through the difficult ranks of the brigade system. Starting from the bottom (dishwasher or prep cook) and working their way to the top (executive chef) instills a sense of order and authority important for children to learn early. Cooking teachers who are former chefs will expect the same kind of respect and organization from their students (from keeping their stations clean to respecting safety rules), and that’s not a bad thing, especially for students who struggle with such concepts.