Apr 29, 2023
Get your kids in on a little home
Somewhere between the time when I was hand-sewing a pillowcase in my low-tech,
Somewhere between the time when I was hand-sewing a pillowcase in my low-tech, middle-school classroom and the arrival of TikTok shorts, public schools nationwide dropped practical courses such as home economics and shop.
I’m by no means a master of the domestic arts, but FACS – short for Family and Consumer Sciences (it seems "home economics" had already undergone its rebranding by the time I reached puberty) – is one of the few classes I remember from my years in junior high.
Even if these practical, skill-oriented courses haven't faded away completely, their presence in Denver area schools is definitely on the decline. Who has the time, or funding, for hands-on electives when there are standardized tests to prep for?
"We have this whole generation of kids paying for services they could be doing themselves," said Alice Sampson, a recently retired educator and the owner of Kids’ Carpentry Colorado, which offers youth woodworking classes at 3735 Ames St. in Wheat Ridge.
After 25 years with Aurora Public Schools, she founded the studio to teach kids to use tools during three-hour-long summer workshops that run Mondays to Thursdays on select weeks through August. Group sizes are small to ensure safety, and that setup means participants are free to choose their own projects. They then learn the tools they’ll need to take their idea from concept to wooden masterpiece. Woodworking is a great alternative to screens, yes, but Sampson lauds the practicality of carpentry, too.
Of course, when it comes to useful life skills, few things rival cooking. In addition to my pillowcase, I also learned to bake cakes, make lasagna and, weirdly, cook fish in the microwave (my FACS teacher was convinced microwave cooking was the future).
Sticky Fingers Cooking will host dozens of themed summer camps along the Front Range for Denver and Boulder kids. From fundamental techniques and the art of plating to emulsification, classes are designed for beginners and experts alike, and recipes are carried out in groups, as a team.
In addition to cooking 10 meals, kids who enroll in a week-long session also participate in crafts and activities during the three-hour camp day. All camps are allergen friendly and nut-free, and 10 online classes are also available. Only one registration is needed per household, making it easy for siblings to join.
As Sticky Fingers Cooking founder and CEO Erin Fletter put it, "It's about so much more than cooking. The kids are truly immersed in every aspect of learning to make delicious food from scratch as they read stories that inform recipes, taste new flavors, hear new languages based on recipe origins, and engage in crafts related to each dish."
Cooking can also provide lessons in science, math, geography and nutrition — not to mention persuade picky eaters to try new things. In a Sticky Fingers classroom, kids get a chance to develop soft skills such as teamwork and sharing; plus, they’ll learn to clean up after themselves.
If you’ve ever struggled with the dreaded summer slide – i.e., that learning setback that can happen when children forget academic material after extended school breaks – following recipes is a sneaky way to get kids to read while following directions in recipes. All Sticky Fingers cookbooks (available on Amazon) are designed to bring in-class learning to families.
Sticky Fingers isn't the only spot for kids to learn cooking skills: Cook Street School of Culinary Arts, which typically specializes in adult cooking classes, is hosting four week-long camps this summer: two for kids ages 8 to 12 and two for teens. Classes, which explore the fundamentals of either cooking or baking, begin at 9 a.m., with students making their own breakfast, and end at 2 p.m. as they enjoy a chef-prepared lunch.
Cook Street owner Lindsey Reese wanted to make it a priority to get kids into her kitchen because cooking is "a self-reliance skill," she said, and also a lost art. "If you start from a young age, the intimidation factor with the kitchen is never a problem," she added. Classes, she said, are all about "creating comfort in the kitchen that will last their entire lives."
Through Aug. 18, Sur La Table offers cooking classes for kids (ages 7 to 11) and teens at its Centennial and Boulder stores. There are options for three-day, four-day and five-day sessions (depending on the week), with themes ranging from Baking 101 to Global Flavors and Culinary Excursion. All camps run for two hours per day and are suitable for any level. Participants can expect to learn essential cooking techniques, basic food prep skills and kitchen safety while preparing dishes such as dim sum, falafel bites with green tahini sauce, fancy French omelets, and blueberry white chocolate cookies.
No education in home economics is complete without a few stitches. Learning to sew gives kids great practice in hand-eye coordination — plus a chance to express themselves through making something unique. At Foothills Art Center in Golden, kids ages 7 to 12 can enroll in a full-day Sewing for Summer camp, offered the last week in July, featuring a variety of "accessories" projects such as hats, water bottle holders, and embroidery.
Fancy Tiger Crafts, the hip employee-owned co-op at 59 Broadway in Denver, offers single-session Kids Sewing 101 and 201 classes, with opportunities to make pillows, totes, skirts, shorts, and PJ pants in two or three hours, depending on the session your child chooses.
All classes (listed on the Fancy Tiger website) open up a month before they’re offered, and they’ll include the use of the organization's sewing studio, outfitted with machines, scissors, pins, etcetera. Materials for classes are sold separately and can be purchased prior to the class at Fancy Tiger or another store.
Christina Patzman, Fancy's Tiger's class coordinator, said that whether kids are sanding a birdhouse, searing steak or hemming their pants, "It's rewarding to learn a new skill and create something for yourself."
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