STEM Education: Delicious Results

Young Mason Partak, with help from his Mom, Kathy, are using technology in the form of GoFundMe to outfit the kitchen of his elementary school so that kids can learn to cook and students can have hot meals  to  fuel their brains and bodies.  What a great example of STEM education in action.

Mason Partak, a student at the AltaVista Community Charter School in Auburn, California, wants to share his love of cooking with his classmates. 

Here’s the challenge.  His school lacks a functioning kitchen.

Mason Partak learned his love of cooking in his Mom's kitchen. Now he is using social media to outfit the kitchen at his school so that his classmates can learn to cook too.

We hear a lot about the value of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education these days. More than just memorization of facts and figures, the STEM movement focuses on practical applications in these core areas to engage and inspire students to pursue careers with purpose and to learn the skills they will need to achieve their goals.  When they do, we create a future workforce that helps keep our country globally competitive.

So, how does Mason’s project reflect the best of STEM learning?  Let’s take a look.

SCIENCE: Cooking is Chemistry and Biology Combined.  Cooking is essentially a series of chemical reactions and a kitchen becomes a lab where we can visibly see how plant cells change when we apply energy.  Try it yourself.  Briefly drop some asparagus in boiling water and then take it out.  The asparagus has turned bright green.   Drop it back in and let it cook too long and the green turns to a mushy grey.  A lesson in the kitchen can explain how the cells change and why it happens.  To learn more, check out this video from ScienceDaily.  

The “T” in STEM is Technology  Not an independent discipline, technology is the thread that ties STEM together.  From software that executes commands to deliver an answer to videos that demonstrate so that students can learn and apply lessons, the “T’ in STEM is the technlogy is that enables  us.  Any cook will tell you, technology helps us create and find answers.  Need one?  Google it.  What to learn the process for doing something, you will probably find it on YouTube.   Need to build a kitchen in your school?  Mason found GoFundMe.

Kitchens are the home of engineering marvels we use every day and take for granted. Try baking bread without a modern oven or mixing up a batch of chocolate chip cookies with a wooden spoon.  You can do it but who wants to?  For our young students, kitchens create learning labs where we can see and use products and learn how they work.  Simple lessons on how a stove gets hot or how the gears in a motor drive an electric mixer get reinforced every time they see Mom or Dad use one  in the kitchen at home. 

The kitchen is a great place to apply math education.  From learning weights and measures to doing the calculations needed to expand a recipe that feeds a family of four  into a receipe that feeds a classroom of 24 or a cafeteria full of kids; the kitchen is filled with learning opportunities.  Too often we hear kids say “Why do I need to learn this?”  In  the kitchen lab we do not just tell them, we show them how math calculations affect what they do every day.

 Good for you Mason!  Learning to cook is a great life skill and also a way to build up your science, technology, engineering, and math skills.  It helps us get creative, and it is fun.  After all, how many school projects can you eat when you finish them.  Kudos Kiddo!

Want to Help Mason Reach His Goal?  Visit his page on GoFundMe.

Learn more about why STEM Matters:

Knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can be the key to a successful future. Here’s why a STEM education matters and how you can inspire students to pursue STEM careers .  Infographic: The Value of a STEM Education from Edutopia.  

Joan Koerber-Walker  
Author’s note from Joan Koerber-Walker
 founder and chairman of CorePurpose

So often we see things on the Internet and wonder – is this for real?   I have the benefit of knowing this project is.  Kathy Partak, Mason’s Mom, and I had the pleasure of working together on the launch when CorePurpose published The Recipe: A fable  for leaders and teams by Amilya Antonetti back in 2010.  I’ve had the pleasure  of observing how Kathy teaches Mason by applying STEM in their “kitchen classroom” and the results have been delicious.

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