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Young visitors learn from culinary students
Culinary WEB 1
Marin Wijma, right, teaches a lesson on fractions to Mashburn Elementary students Jack Gooding, far left, and Kyle Donaldson in the culinary arts kitchen at South Forsyth High. The effort illustrates for younger students concepts such as fractions, ratios and measurements. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Several fourth-graders stood around a stainless steel culinary station.

They watched, big-eyed, as one of their peers used a pizza cutter to slice an oversized chocolate chip cookie in half.

“Now, if we cut it again into four pieces, what fraction would one slice equal?” asked South Forsyth High student Marin Wijma.

At a second station, Joshua Andrews helped another group of young students pour water from large measuring containers into smaller ones.

“There are four quarts in a gallon, so how do we get a gallon into four parts?” he asked them.

The visitors were among a group of 60 from Mashburn Elementary who took a field trip Wednesday to the culinary arts department at South.

The outing featured more than a dozen different math lessons, all taught by high school students. Next week, their remaining 60 Mashburn classmates will have the same opportunity.

The idea to have younger students learn from older ones came from the school’s fourth-grade teachers, who wanted to find a way to help them learn about concepts like fractions, ratios and measurements.

“We wanted to make cookies with them,” said teacher Heidi Morea. “We went to our principal, Tracey Smith, and she said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to go to South with the culinary arts kids and have them teach our kids?”

From there, Morea said, Smith went to South principal Jason Branch, who liked the idea.

He in turn went to Dawn Martin, the culinary arts instructor, and Linda Wright, the head of South’s math department. The women began developing lessons their students could teach.

Martin said she and Wright met with the Mashburn teachers one afternoon and came up with a variety of mini-lessons, using the fourth-grade math curriculum.

“They also asked us to incorporate the career path aspect into it too,” Martin said. “They needed [the students] to understand why they needed to know this math. So we’re weaving real-life information in with the culinary and hospitality industry part of it.”

The younger students seemed happy to be learning real-life math, especially from their older peers.

“I really liked them,” said Susie Thompson of her high school teachers. “I’m learning things that I never learned before.”

When asked which station was his favorite, classmate Bryan Walker eagerly replied “everything.”

Just coming to the bigger school was special.

“I felt really excited about getting to come here, since it’s the first time I get to have a sneak peek at my future school,” he said.

Marybeth Yonk said she was surprised when her teachers told the class they would be visiting the high school.

“We don’t usually get to go to places where there are older kids,” she said.

As far as her favorite station, she liked learning about angles and weights.

Anna Hatz led the weight station, in which elementary students measured out sugar and flour and then weighed them on a food scale.

“This shows them that things weigh differently on the scale than when you measure them out in a measuring cup, due to different textures,” she said. “We’re also working on things like if your recipe called for three-quarters of a cup, but you only had a one-quarter cup measure, how many would you need to use.”

Caitlyn Reeves worked at the “Gallon Man” station, in which students learned a visual aid to help them with liquid measures. 

“We use Gallon Man to show them how many quarts, pints and cups are in a gallon. It’s to teach them the basic conversions,” she said.

Reeves said the experience was fun.

“It’s really cool to give them an opportunity like this,” she said. “I would have been really into doing something like this when I was a fourth-grader.”

Back at the chocolate chip cookie station, Wijma said he too enjoyed the experience.

“Just teaching the kids something new was really fun,” he said. “They really look up to us as high school students, so it’s pretty neat.”