Bread Baking as Educational Exercise

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As a preschool educator, I quickly realized that many of my learners did not really know where their food comes from and when prompted would name a well known supermarket. This, together with parents frequently lamenting the fact that they cannot get their children to eat healthy food, made me decide to get back to basics. With fond memories of baking bread rolls with my Italian grandmother, I began by setting up a theme table showing the learners what real wheat looks like, bags of flour, yeast and posters with pictures of various types of bread.

A lesson in making bread with a large class

It is impossible for all twenty five learners to make the dough, but a type of “Master” class with a select number of learners participating seems to work well. I tried to involve as many of the learners as possible, calling them up to add an ingredient, mix or stir. They loved the idea that the dough was like a baby and had to be put to sleep for a while, and I played on this concept by actually placing a real blanket over the dough basin. It is important however, to rub the dough with some oil and place some plastic wrap over the basin before putting a blanket over the basin. The learners were instructed not to peek for at least an hour, which reinforced our understanding of time. I then set up alternative activities whilst we waited for the dough to rise.

Once the dough has risen, learners was given an apron, board and piece of dough. Students were also given some flour to prevent the dough from sticking to hands and boards. This was the fun part and they particularly enjoyed being able to knead the dough and shape it into different things. There was plenty of discussion around what types of rolls they had observed in restaurants and supermarkets. Some of the learners decided to make rabbits or hearts whilst other preferred conventional shapes like a hamburger roll or hot dog roll. They then brushed the rolls with some milk and they were popped in the oven.

To distract the learners for the twenty minutes it took to bake the bread, we sang some nursery rhymes like “Have you seen the muffin man” and “pat-a-cake.” The learners all participated in cleaning up in preparation for the opportunity to eat their warm rolls and picnic in the classroom.

When asked after wards how they had enjoyed the baking of bread they informed me that it was the best bread they had ever tasted. I topped off the lesson by sending the recipe home so that the learners could continue to practice their baking skills and make bread for their families in a bread machine.

Tips for teachers

Practical tips for teachers wishing to bake with their preschool class:

  • Have all your ingredients ready on the table.
  • Involve as many learners as possible.
  • Make sure you have a block of butter available to spread on the warm rolls.
  • Allow for enough time for the learners to “play” with the dough before placing on the baking tray.
  • You can add raisins or make it savory with some chopped fresh rosemary.
  • Make sure learners help to clean up, as this is an important life skill.
  • Be sure to make a small loaf for colleagues who will smell the baking bread and want a slice.

We often forget as teachers, to have fun with our learners. With parents spending much of their time in their work place, it falls to the educator to create some of those special memories. Try this in your classroom; it is worth the effort.

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