We welcome semester two with open arms. It has been a bumpy start to the school year, filled with stress, tension, and excitement. I enter semester two with a prep block – also known as breathing room to create and explore my practice as an educator. As I ease into the semester I decided to play around with my inquiry mindset and experiment with structuring my classes in terms of questions. I know this is nothing new for some teachers, but I decided to do this because I wanted to see what it would feel like in anticipation of the new direction of curriculum. As of now the new curriculum drafts for applied skills have not been released. We had received notices and e-mails from teachers who have been worried about what the new curriculum would mean to home economics programs and the new graduation requirements. As usual, with change comes discomfort and often, resistance.
My journey from my practicum (traditional) to my first couple years of my practice (problem-based/project-based) to the last couple years (inquiry-based projects) to this year (inquiry/design mindset) has drastically transformed the way that I interact with students and the way that I assess their learning. Where I was ending my semester with an inquiry project, I saw a need for this type of thinking from the get go. I started this semester with a course question and subsequent guiding questions. In particular, I have started to redesign the grade 8 Foods and Nutrition curriculum at Fraser Heights. However, that’s for another day – I am in the process of planning a speech at this year’s Canadian Symposium (February 27 – March 1, 2015) and will report what I’ve come up with in another post.
I started off this semester with only four days with my culinary arts class before I handed them over to my student teacher. Traditionally this would be the time to cover safety, sanitation, dishwashing, roles, procedures, and rules in the kitchen. However, realizing that my classes were multi-grade and had a variety of experience levels, I decided that I would start to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: approach the course from a design and inquiry mindset. Culinary Arts has long been a design course, where students are faced with small challenges surrounding a theme and are responsible from the planning process to the execution of an original product. Instead of droning on and on about safety and sanitation, or even playing the usual safety scavenger hunt scenarios, I asked students to present the class with their answer to the question “What does one need in order to be successful in the kitchen?” I gave them the guiding questions “What does one need professionally?” and “How can one be safe/sanitary in the kitchen?” I clarified over and over again that the objective was not to regurgitate a list of guidelines for professionalism, a list of safety rules, or a list of sanitation rules. As most of the students struggled with what this crazy man was asking them, they started to realize that the answer to the question was not one of knowledge but one of ontology. We realized that the specific knowledge of safety and sanitation were second to the skills that they need in order to work with others, push their boundaries, and execute their creations. I was blown away by the number of ways students presented their findings in just three days.