Bread making lessons teach key concepts to schoolchildren
Maths, science and nutrition among the ideas taught in the process
In the cafeteria of Paint Branch Elementary School in College Park, Maryland this month, nearly 80 students were completely focused and smiling as Esther Arce-Reed tossed a roll of dough into the air during a demonstration that went much further than just making a loaf of bread.
The craft of making bread has been part of the curriculum in schools across the country for decades, and although culinary arts have been replaced in many districts with lessons in science, computer technology and robotics, Reed and her husband, Raymon, are proponents of bread making as a window to learn those key math concepts through measurements.
“The idea is for schoolchildren to have an experience that they can remember for the rest of their lives,” Arce-Reed says. “They are given the opportunity to experience maths, science and nutrition concepts, but in a way where they are fully engaged.”
A group of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students at the school were seated at tables with plastic bowls, measuring cups and wooden rulers. Each table was lined with white paper so the flour, yeast, salt, brown sugar and water could be rolled to make dough.
“It is good for the kids to get some hands-on experience with science and maths through bread making,” says principal Emmett Hendershot. “We have had [the Reeds] here for the last two years.”
Arce-Reed first learned about bread making as an educational tool in 2009, when she saw Gloria McAdams give a demonstration at Maryland’s Greenbelt Elementary school. In the 1970s, Adams, a native of Texas, created a curriculum called “Breadmake: Hands-On Science, Real Life Math.”
“I was a parent volunteer, my daughter was in the first grade and I felt the energy and the method of teaching was impressive,” says Arce-Reed, an early childhood teacher who felt compelled to put together her own programme,“Breadmaking EZ.”
How do children learn about science and maths through bread making?
“Where does salt come from?” asks Raymon Reed, picking up a big chunk of salt during a demonstration. “It comes from a rock that is mined from the earth. Where does flour come from? It comes from wheat that is grown. Where does sugar come from? It comes from sugar cane. This is science.”
Reed says maths and nutrition are also taught through the preparation part of the demonstration. “In order to make the dough we follow a recipe with all of our raw materials. The flour, salt, sugar and all of these things are measured,” he says.