home school, photography and cooking

Today I want to get practical again for a bit.  So many of you are starting home school classes today.  You are looking for curriculum for your home school classroom.  As a photographer I tend to think of things visually.  So here is a neat little project for any age kid really.  This can be done as easily by a small child as an older child.  The difference in execution is the degree of supervision needed.

What I am proposing is a lesson on sequencing using a digital camera and a favorite recipe.  First pick out a favorite family recipe.  Have the child start a series of notes in his notebook.   Title a page something like project steps. 

You will need the recipe, the materials needed to cook the recipe, an oven, stove, or microwave as called for in the recipe, a digital camera, and a notebook.  You will also need a computer because there is a writing or presentation component to this program. 

Gather the materials that are called for in the recipe.  Have your child take a photograph of each component of the recipe.  Get in close and fill the frame with the ingredient.  Then carefully read the steps in the recipe.  I would have the child write down steps that are going to be completed in the notebook. 

Then begin cooking.  Take a photograph of each step in the recipe.  You may have to assist while the child’s hands are busy stirring, slicing or dicing.  Take a couple of pictures of each step.  Take pictures of everything.  Take a picture of putting in an ingredient, stirring, pouring, or putting in the oven.  Remember to have the child do as much of the photography as possible. 

Then finally take a picture of the magnificent finished product. 

Now comes the really important part.  Have your child start the computer.  Download the pictures to a file labeled with the name of the recipe.  Open a program of your choice.  I would use PowerPoint or perhaps the free presentation program in Google Docs or Open Office.  Title the first slide or page.  If you are using a presentation program select a suitable background. 

Then go to the file containing the pictures to arrange the pictures in the order you are going to use them.  Have the student move the pictures about until they are in the desired order in the file.  Then select the first picture.  Copy the picture to the document.  

Now the child will write a full explanation of what is going on in the picture.   The first picture should be of the ingredients.  Say you are using Bell Peppers of some type in the recipe.  This is the time to look up “Bell Peppers” in some reliable reference source explaining what a Bell Pepper is as well as what kind of dishes in which it will be found.  Write a short piece about the ingredient, where it came from;  what it is used for; how it is being prepared for this recipe including any details needed for the specific recipe.

Continue the process  until each one of the ingredients has been introduced.  Then proceed to show each one of the steps in the recipe.  Stop and each step so it can be photographed.  Download the pictures to the computer.  Continue the process of inserting pictures along with accompaning text until you are done. 

Do this with enough recipes and you will have a publishable cookbook. 

But what is so important about sequencing other than doing a rewarding and fun activity.   Being able to process events in a serial order is important in the development higher cognitive processes. 

The act of explaining a set of actions leading to a conclusion reveals much about the maturity of a child’s thinking.  Simply observing how you child puts together this or any other like project will reveal to you how your child perceives ordered steps.  The photography is a means to an end.  The end here is to understand what your child is thinking.  This kind of activity is a way to see your child’s metacognitive skills in action.  Metacognition is thought of as “knowing about knowing”.  Watching your child put together this project will let you see into the way they think.  You will be able to understand if there are any logical gaps in your child’s processing of stepwise processes.  Activities that cause the child to consider thier own thinking cause the child to become better at thinking.   They will realize mistakes in their thinking in ways that cannot be realized in any other way. 

Reading perception can be analyzed.  As your child reads a recipe listen carefully to the the child’s self talk as they go about the process.  People often talk to themselves at an almost unconcious level when they are doing process skills if they are left alone.  Just listen.  By listening to the way in which your child handles the process of mental organization you will know what to focus on in the next teaching activity.  You will find out very, very quickly if your child is reading at a level that allows them to process complicated data. 

Goal directed planning is one of the single most important skills any person can have to succeed at life.  We all have to put together plans that include many steps.  We do this all the time without really thinking about it.  But some people are better at planning than others because they are able to mentally devise plans with multiple steps efficiently.  These are the people who have developed higher level metacognitive skills than others.  Activities like the one I have described are important in order for a child to be able to develop the ability to sequence complex plans leading to a complex conclusion.

Mathematical thinking is so often characterized by an ability to think in a logical order.  The same kind of thing can be accomplished by breaking down math problems step by step.  The video camera is a perfect hook to get kids to utilize higher level metacognitive skills. 

All of problem solving boils down to the ability to see the steps in a process.  One must be able to visualize the steps that brought a situation to it’s present state.  Also, one must be able to think through a proposed series of steps in order to determine if a particular plan will be successful.  While the project may seem deceptively simple, even a bit contrived, it yields extremely high levels of success in developing the ability to sequence a logical series of steps leading to the fruition of a process. 

Would that our politicians had such skills.   Following this kind of systematic project development will put your child miles ahead of children who do the bare minimum that can be done in group situations. 








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Filed under cognitive science, home school, independent learning, Uncategorized

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