Mastering discipline, manners — and squid sauce

When I visited the kitchen at Lafayette Elementary School last week, I expected to see children at work. I’ve seen children as young as 8 years old chop vegetables in cooking programs (usually, with butter knives), so it’s not as if I were shocked to see kids cooking.


But the scene at the Lafayette kitchen made an impression from the moment I stepped in the door. The hustle and bustle, the professionalism, the poise under pressure. (I was also addressed as “ma’am” when I daftly stood between the door and a boy lugging a large container of food.)

Lafayette’s┬áprincipal, Benjamin Redmond, says he wishes similar cooking clubs could take root at other schools. The well-trained and committed group of fifth-graders (with one third-grade exception) move onto middle school next year, where — as of now — they are unlikely to find a similar opportunity to develop their skills.

Here’s the story, and the accompanying video.

photo by Tribune staff photographer/videographer Aric Crabb

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Agapemo

    Congratulations to Mr. Redmond, Mr. and Mrs. Mack and Network Executive Denise Saddler for establishing this wonderful program for our children!

    Michael L. Moore, Sr.
    Senior Change Leader

  • Tracy Powell

    I work with Episcopal Senior Communities, the organization that sponsors Oak Center Towers–the Iron Chefs program has made a HUGE impact on the senior residents–the kids add great energy to the seniors’ lives and Reggie and Demetra Mack who initiated the program have done a truly outstanding job with the kids–thanks to Katy Murphy for putting the spotlight on this wonderful collaboration.

  • Nextset

    I approve. The skills used in cooking classes such as measurements, temperatures, timing, as well as teamwork in sharing equipment and following orders on a deadline – are important things to develop and to experience at any age. The younger the better.

    I believe we used (pre 1960?) to have such classes in most high schools but they fell out of fashion – along with the fashion/apparrel classes.

    The comment that the students being unlikely to find a similar opportunity to develop their skills got me. I hope the schools do find lots of opportunities to develop lots of skills. As far as I’m concerned Middle School isn’t too early to put together a intern/extern or apprenticeship program of some sort. Certainly by high school the schools should be placing students in jobs, job training classes, apprenticeship programs, etc.

    An interesting thought, a public school being a place where students go to find a job.

  • hills parent

    Wonderful video! I wish students at other OUSD elementary schools had such a wonderful opportunity. Kudos to the program…

  • Sue

    Nextset Says:
    April 21st, 2008 at 3:52 pm
    “I believe we used (pre 1960?) to have such classes in most high schools but they fell out of fashion – along with the fashion/apparrel classes.”

    You mean “home ec”, I think? – which I took in 9th grade, 1973-74. That was a in *very* rural school district on the OR border, just barely still in CA. And all the boys had to take “shop”. They were graduation requirements by gender.

    Ah, the roots of my feminist awakening! I loved the sewing unit, because I’d already been sewing for 4-5 years and was pretty good. But I hated the cooking unit, and let the other girls (the ones who were good at it) do those tasks, while I helped with eating and clean-up.

    I would have liked to take “shop”, but that wasn’t allowed. There was a special elective “boys home ec” that juniors and seniors could take – so they wouldn’t starve or wear rags if they weren’t getting married right after graduation. But there was no equivalent girls’ “shop” so we could learn to replace a broken window, change our car’s oil (or know when the mechanic was ripping us off), etc. if we didn’t marry immediately after graduation.

    That’s completely anecdotal, so it might have nothing at all to do with why such classes went “out of favor” – or the feminist movement of the 70’s might have had a lot to do with the elimination of gender-based graduation requirements.

    I agree that it’s good to see these kinds of skills being taught, especially now that they’re taught to all students. I thought so eight years ago when my older son’s special day class (2nd grade, Communication Handicap) was learning to make fudge and other fun treats before and during the winter holidays.