Sunday, January 3, 2010

Jammies School: Power Foods Lab

Luke and Nina sure love to cook and bake, and while I try to include them in our daily food preparation as regularly as possible, I sometimes opt for the convenience of expedited solo cooking over the inherit learning opportunities of cooking together. No longer! As part of my quest for Order in Our Home this year, I plan to make more conscience choices regarding our family menu planning. That includes a commitment to adding at least one new “power food” recipe to our diet each week. And, since “power foods” dovetail so readily into equally powerful learning experiences, I intend to extend my commitment to providing Luke and Nina more frequent forays into one of our natural laboratories for learning – our kitchen.

This week, our lesson will be Crock Pot Yogurt, with thanks to the recipe I found on this site, adapted slightly to make it a morning (and, truthfully, all-day) project for the kids, rather than an overnight one, as we usually enjoy Jammies School time in the morning.

And, how, one might ask, can Crock Pot Yogurt lend itself to pre-K learning? Well, let me put my educator’s cap on for a moment to detail:

- By expanding vocabulary and language through reviewing the recipe together and talking about the words in it, such as “whisk”, “refrigerate”, “recipe” and “ingredients”.
- By developing knowledge of print, letters and words through reading a recipe chart together, listing ingredients we need to get (milk and yogurt) and searching for these ingredients at the store.
- By making comparisons through comparing the quart, half-gallon and gallon containers of milk at the store and the ½ to a full cup of starter yogurt when we are making our own yogurt.
- By making the kids aware of technology through talking about what a crock pot is and how it helps us with our cooking, as well as by comparing “tools” like spoons and whisks and how they serve us differently.
- By encouraging social and emotional well being through working cooperatively to make the yogurt and taking a sense of pride in successfully (We hope!) doing so.
- By developing small muscle control and eye-hand coordination through pouring the milk, measuring out the starter yogurt, whisking the ingredients together, etc.
- By recognizing numerals and becoming aware of time concepts as we wait different increments of time during the yogurt making process.
- By making predictions and estimations about what part of our day it might be when the timer goes off at different points in our yogurt-making process, for example, might it be snack time, after lunch time or dinner time?
- By exploring scientific concepts through comparing the texture of what’s in the crock pot at different stages of our yogurt making trial. Is it runny or thick? Why? What might have made it change?
- By solving problems through asking the kids how we might fit our big batch of yogurt into our smaller containers for the fridge.
- By practicing one-to-one correspondence through having the children set out as many bowls for the yogurt as we have people trying it the first time we eat it.
- By encouraging data collection, organization and representation through starting a chart of which recipes we liked and did not like, which are successful and which are not, etc.
- By forming healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime as we talk about how the yogurt might contribute to our health and well-being.
- By practicing the virtue of patience as we wait for our yogurt to be done.

Whew! Now, that’s a lot of learning in one simple project. And, I didn’t even mention the bonus of having fun while creating more budget-friendly, healthy yogurt for our family!

So, let the Power Foods Lab begin!

Note: For the record, this is how I adapted the recipe to make to a morning-start project:

1. Upon waking up, turn the crock pot onto low and pour in ½ gallon of milk.
2. Set our timer for 2 hours and 45 minutes.
3. When the timer goes off, turn off the crock pot and unplug it. Let the milk cool in the pot with the lid on for 3 hours. (Set the timer!)
4. When the timer goes off, remove 1-2 cups of milk and place it into a bowl. Add ½ cup of yogurt (with live cultures) to it and mix well.
5. Pour the yogurt-milk mixture back into the milk and whisk thoroughly.
6. Place the cover back on the crock pot and wrap the entire crock pot in several thick towels.
7. Put the crock pot in a sage place and let it sit for 8-12 hours. (Set the timer.)
8. After 8-12 hours, stir the yogurt, taste it and, then, store it in glass jars in the fridge.
9. Try it again the following day and note changes in texture.


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