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Multi-Generational Teaching

October 2, 2012

Three generations of my family took part in an activity with my students last week.

Granted, one was there in spirit only.

It started out as a final project for our first literature book, Homer Price by Robert McCloskey. (And, I confess, as an excuse to bring my dad on board. He’s great with kids, even if it isn’t his “comfort zone.”) When I asked if he’d help with the class, I was pretty sure he couldn’t resist what I had in mind: making my grandmother’s donuts.

Turns out, I was able to apply donuts to more lessons than Homer Price.

The obvious one, of course, was math. We wanted to share our donuts with the entire school. (Don’t get too impressed; we only have forty students.) So, of course, we doubled the recipe, saving the fractions for the fourth graders. While we did that, I tied in a bit of home ec as I explained recipe abbreviations like T., t., Tbsp., tsp., c., etc.  My students felt like they’d unlocked a secret code.

The recipe called for frying the donuts in lard, which brought up some interesting discussion. We’ll call that science. Funny, while the idea of lard disgusted the kids in the classroom, they didn’t give it a second thought when they saw it in liquid form on the stove. It was simply a means to an end—donut heaven.

It just so happened that we’d spent the week doing some activities surrounding another story, The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco. It’s a lovely tale and the kids had put thought into treasures of their own that had historical significance to their families. It was a stretch for some of them to come up with non-toys that were special to them and told their family history. After all, at this age a toy truck that they’ve had for three whole years has more importance than some boring old locket of Great Aunt Betsy’s.

So, it was fortuitous (or, divinely inspired. That you, Grandma?) that my dad showed up with a photocopy of my grandmother’s recipe card. I talked about how special it was to have the recipe in her own handwriting. I told them that if she hadn’t written the recipe for my dad, he wouldn’t have been able to make donuts for and with me, and they wouldn’t be having donuts today.

Well, that sure made those kiddos appreciate Grandma and the passing down of family history.

As for the end result, suffice it to say that the kitchen was a disaster and the whole school smelled like lard. But, my students were extremely well behaved, all things considered. Fortunately, my mom joined us, too. The extra hands were definitely necessary.  And, I’d had the brainchild the night before to set up a separate art area so I could work with the kids in groups.

Some of the older kids took to calling our creations “bacon donuts” due to the smell floating through the building; but bacon being, well, bacon, I take that as a compliment. And not a single person turned up a nose when the platters were presented to their classrooms.

  1. Big task– cooking with kids. I’m impressed!

  2. Thanks. I’ve had many years of practice with my Girl Scout troop.

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