Chocolate Chip Cookies as Curriculum

By JK teacher Tisha Johnson
One area of heavy focus in JK Johnson is around Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Children aren’t born with the skills to navigate conflict, share and manage emotions. And, spending two years in the pandemic means lost opportunities for these four and five year-olds to have learned and practiced these skills. This work has always been the crux of early childhood learning! So, we spend a great deal of time modeling, scaffolding and role playing with and for the children. Currently we are using phrases like, “Nice game/race, want to play/race again?” Instead of focusing on who wins and who loses, we are using phrases to join into play like, “May I play with you?” or “What are you playing?” and checking in with classmates when we accidently bump into them or hurt them, “Are you okay?” To further the connectedness and responsibility to our classroom community, our Writer’s Workshop prompts when we return from Robert Fulgham’s classic piece, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Each day, we will draw what these skills look like in JK-J:
  1. Share everything.
  2. Play fair.
  3. Don’t hit people.
  4. Put things back where you found them.
  5. Clean up your own mess.
  6. Don’t take things that aren't yours.
  7. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  8. Wash your hands before you eat.
  9. Flush. 
  10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
After sharing these excerpts from Fulgham’s piece with the students, I wanted to be certain that all in her class could understand and appreciate the meaning of text—and to celebrate these community concepts—especially the magic of enjoying warm cookies and milk.

To that end, I reached out to Parker’s Foodservice Manager and peer Parker parent Chef Zac Maness to coordinate on an action plan to help teach the students a yummy lesson. Chef Zac first visited our classroom to review all of the ingredients that get combined in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. Here, he described what each constituent element added to the totality of the cookie experience and demonstrated the proper order and technique of combining them as part of the recipe.

After using a cookie scoop to arrange the dough on cookie sheets, Chef Zac invited the students to join him in the Parker PM kitchen area. Students waited patiently while the oven worked its magic, filling the air with a delicious aroma while I read, If You Give A Mouse a Cookie, to help them pass the time while the cookies baked. When the cookies were done, students returned to the classroom and enjoyed them with milk as part of that day’s snack time—with some daring eaters even dunking their cookies into their milk cartons.

From the smiles on the student and teachers faces, it was pretty clear that all had a better appreciation for cookies and milk (and SEL) after this experience!

Click here for photos.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.