Last week, every child in Jo Ann Woods’ kindergarten class at Nathanael Greene Primary School brought home a class cookbook to give to their parents for Christmas. Each student’s favorite recipe is written in their own handwriting with a picture of the author in a chef hat and apron. Woods purchased the chef hats and aprons (each kid picked their own color) with her own money, and the kids will be able to bring the outfits home after wearing them on a field trip to the Greene County Technical Education Center.
Woods put in a lot of work to make the project come together in time for the holidays. Kindergarten is a difficult time to use handwritten items from students.
“I wanted them to be a part of it, so I wrote it in highlighter and then they had to trace it,” Woods said. “When you run it off on the copier, the highlighter doesn’t show and it just has their handwriting.”
UVA donated the binders to the cause, and other materials were obtained by donation.
“One of the teachers heard me in the copy room when I was making this, and I sent a note to parents saying I was going to need some (page protectors) and … I was so excited, an Amazon package came,” Woods said.
Julie Conley, a parent and new second-grade teacher at the school, donated a large stack of page protectors for the recipes.
The photographers helped corral the kids for the pictures on each page, and high school students Chloe and Hannah Williams from Page County helped put the books together, earning community service hours for school.
“It was a culmination of a lot of people helping and working to get it done on time. The whole team is working diligently on this, but I had a lot of outside resources to help me be able to get it ready by Christmas,” Woods said.
“Kooking” in Kindergarten is part of a new program called “Genius Time” that is being implemented at the primary school this year. The last Monday of every month, the entire kindergarten team picks a recipe from the book to cook in school. Students from the Tech Center came and did a presentation in each kindergarten classroom on kitchen safety.
“The students went around to each class and presented that, and then we took a group picture in my classroom. We are actually going to the Tech Center to visit, and I think (the kids) will be able to make something there that they can taste,” Woods said.
The kids will be able to wear their new aprons and hats to the Tech Center visit before taking them home.
Jennifer Myers, an instructional coach at the school, was on a team that applied for and won the Flanagan Innovation in Mathematics Education Grant from the Virginia Council of Teachers of Mathematics last year.
“We wrote the grant for a project called Let’s Get Cooking. We received almost $5000 to do a school-wide project. Part of the project is that twelve families do a cooking night for each grade level,” Myers said.
Each month, a local celebrity chef teaches a class to twelve families from one grade level where the groups prepare a meal. Participants not only get to enjoy the meal from the class but are given a bag of ingredients to make the dish again at home. The kindergarten classes will take part in cooking night on March 25.
“The other piece of the grant is that we are infusing cooking into math across the board,” Myers said. “Every grade level is taking this where it leads, so kindergarten’s really working on exposing students to fractions and measurements.”
Each grade level has a representative on an Innovation Team who come together to talk about how they can incorporate cooking into math and other subject areas throughout the year.
“We’ve tried to include the community in as many ways as possible, be it the students at the tech center or local chefs through our cooking nights; we’ve had some parents come in to kindergarten and talk about their jobs in the restaurant industry. Each grade’s doing something different, but kindergarten’s really just taken it and run with it. If every grade level takes on this project like kindergarten did, it’s going to be amazing by the end of the year,” Myers said.