In my studies I have been reading about the affective factors of motivation, self-confidence and anxiety as the make or break components of second language acquisition. I'd venture that they are not so far removed from successful learning in any context.
As Mary Poppins herself states "In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and SNAP! the job's a game. And every task you undertake, becomes a piece of cake..."
Games, fun, play, enjoyment...
These are cherished ingredients in any recipe. So, when it came to choosing a new project idea for our dramatic play area (previously a library) we asked the students. It was a tight race between a zoo and a bakery. The bakery won!
As part of the Reggio Emilia project approach to learning we listen to the ideas of our students and allow them to dictate the direction of our inquiry. This means that we cannot plan the unit in advance but rather facilitate their exploration in a joint partnership. It is a leap of faith because you never know where it'll lead exactly.
Once our topic was selected Lauren and I documented their current knowledge of a bakery. What do we need? What happens there? My favorite student response "we need bakery people".
We went on a walking trip to a local family operated bakery (established in 1935!) to gather ideas, ask questions, make observational drawings and partake of the yummy heart shaped cookies.
We also used our other available resource, the school library. Our librarian Sara pulled a bunch of helpful fiction and non-fiction titles. Mr. Cookie Baker by Monica Wellington provided us with a nice overview of the tools and procedure involved in baking. The book contains simple language and clear illustrations as well as some recipes. LOVE IT!
Armed with this knowledge we began to create our classroom bakery. A flurry of activity ensued as the rug was removed and a stove, baking table and cupboard was brought in.
Each morning another student arrives with bakery items supplied by a generous family member. We've got cupcake liners, wooden spoons, whisks, cupcake trays, sprinkles, cookie cutters, toothpicks, measuring cups, chef hats, etc.
One child even brought in handmade aprons his mom whipped up the night before! I think the parents are just as excited as their kids about the bakery. Already some have suggested we have a bake sale and have offered other ideas to help make our exploration a meaningful experience.
Until that all comes together if you are in the market for some play-doh cookies covered with sprinkles and icing you know where to go.