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Welcome to the Kristina's Kitchen Classroom

Kristina Weidenfeller

Welcome to the kitchen! In the kitchen classroom, we focus on bringing students and whole, regionally grown food together to create classroom snacks and lunch for our school community. Our goal is to offer opportunities and experiences that will build the individual's knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to eat well for a lifetime. We look forward to working with your child this year!

Sincerely,
Kristina Weidenfeller
Kristina@traversechildrenshouse.org 
231-929-9325 ex19
 




“Man still belongs to nature, and especially when he is a child, he…draws from it the forces necessary to the development of the body and of the spirit.”
-Dr. Maria Montessori  

Kristina Weidenfeller, Lunch Program and Kitchen Classroom
B.A. Michigan State University, Special Education K-12
M.A. Michigan State University, Curriculum and Teaching
The Children's House experience (summer 2009- present):
Elementary summer yoga and nutrition class

March 23, 2017

Cooking in the time of Influenza

Wash your hands! Sneeze into your elbow! Change your gloves, change your gloves, change your gloves!
Never has our sanitation program been more critical than this year's February and March. Each day brings a long list of absences; adult and child alike. We have been vigilant in the kitchen with food handling, preparation, and service. If you have ever ventured into the kitchen classroom, you may have felt that we wash our hands excessively, change our gloves too often, or throw out food that is "probably just fine." We do do all of the above. But, we do it because in a kitchen where we cook for people of all ages, it is imperative to keep our food germ free, in order to protect our community. We teach and enforce safe food handling so that lunch and snack are not vectors for the spread of viruses. We do our part.

Last week we celebrated St. Patrick's Day like champs. The kitchen turned out copious amounts of Boxty on the Griddle, Shepard's Pie, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Irish Stew, and of course, Soda bread. Elementary students paired up, learned how to make a loaf and then taught a group of extended day how to make a loaf. It became evident early on that meat and potatoes were staple ingredients in traditional Irish cuisine. Each day started with the question, "Have you peeled potatoes yet?" and ended with, "Do I smell like meat?" The week ended with lighter fare. Our Friday afternoon consisted of avocado hummus, snap peas, green beans, and cucumbers. Eatin' o' the green!

In celebration of the first day of spring, we have started what may become a mini-unit on portable snacks, wonderful things that can be thrown in a bag and taken out on a hike, bike, or paddle (or in reality, a soccer field, track or baseball diamond) . This week's portable snack recipe was "fruit leather," which apparently still is only recognizable as "Fruit Roll-ups." We tried a few different recipes, failed the first time- but enjoyed sweet success the second. Now it's off to the creation races! Today, an elementary student surveyed the cooler and created his own recipe that we made with the extended day students. All we are doing is pureeing different fruit combinations and then putting the puree on sheets in the dehydrator. Magic! And, when made at home, will magically create less waste from packaging.

Have a wonderful break- may spring bring warmth and health back to our corner of the world.

March 9, 2017

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of cooking...
the thrill of baking...
the agony of onions...
the human drama of food preparation...
This is TCH's Wild World of Kitchen Classroom!

This best describes the past week or so in the kitchen. We have been blessed with our own play-by-play commentators regarding all activities cooking and otherwise. Not a moment passes without clear description laid out for posterity. If it had been recorded, these classroom highlights , which pale in comparison, would not be necessary.

Last week, the extended day students participated in an integrated project between music and kitchen. Amanda presented a logging song that the students learned with her. The kitchen classroom followed up with stories of lumbering, log ends, and a little bit of Mrs. O'Leary's cow. We talked about how logs were taken to the sawmill and how they were marked for different companies. Students made "log end" cookies with their own "company's" logo. Our history is so rich in this area- it was fun for all to make connections between lumberjacks, lumber barons, and what is now Boardman Lake, instead of "Boardman's Lake."

After a busy week of lunch and helping with extended day classroom, the elementary crew were able to perform an experiment on Friday with what is becoming a favorite fun Friday treat- Hot Cocoa Snickerdoodles. Four students chose the same recipe. We altered the ingredients so that one batch was standard with egg and dairy, and two batches were vegan and gluten free with varying ingredients. We compared animal product performance to vegetable product performance. We compared AP gluten free flour, a mixture of AP GF and coconut flour, and just straight AP flour. We compared thickeners and binders such as arrow root and ground chia. What started this impromptu cookie bake off? One student was animate that they did not like coconut or chia. So, we ran an experiment with a taste test in the end. Surprisingly, the overall winner was the recipe with arrowroot, chia, and coconut oil. Vegan and gluten free. Who knew?

Realizing that I have now mentioned cookies twice, I don't want anyone getting the idea that just make sweets all the time. This week's project brought a twist on a favorite ingredient. Elementary students and extended day students combined forces to make "Pesto spirals" for snack. A yeast leavened pizza dough, wrapped up with fresh pesto and Parmesan cheese- yum!

Time to return to the Wild World of Cooking!

February 24, 2017

MMUN, RAC, 100th Day, and Mardi Gras...

Spring? Winter? Or just Michigan... Whatever it's doing outside, we just keep going. The past two weeks have brought special projects into the kitchen. The 6th years hosted their families for a wonderful Venezuelan Dinner that they planned, shopped for, and prepared. Students, parents, and teachers enjoyed Savory Empanadas, Beans and Rice, and fried plantains. Dinner on Monday, breakfast on Tuesday- The Junior High students hosted their book club, "Read Across the County," or RAC, on Tuesday morning. They also planned, shopped for, and prepared a lovely meal consisting of Carmel Apple French Toast, fruit salad, bacon, lemonade and hot chocolate. Fast forward a week, and the lower elementary kitchen students prepared Chocolate Chip Pancake batter for their classmates, a 100th day tradition. Food is central to celebrations and gatherings; serving food welcomes friends and loved ones.

One of our many food traditions in the kitchen is "King Cake." The recipe is titled "Mardi Gras King Cake," but it is known as simply, King Cake. Each extended day classroom will get the chance to make it, even if you haven't heard about it yet, there's still next week. The Elementary Students will also make sure that they get theirs, it seems to have become a "right." :)

Della Terra has been hard at work. Each day they gather to study grounds maps, look through seeds, and research growing practices. One project getting special attention is a possible gourd tunnel. Through recycling MANY of our Moomer's milk jugs, we've created mini green houses in the Great Hall that are growing possible candidates for the proposed project. Also, with the unseasonably warm weather, we have been able to plant peas and carrots that should be good to go the next time it decides to warm up.

Students have also taken inventory of our seeds and garden tools in order to place an order so that as soon as our greenhouse is ready, which, fingers crossed, could be soon, we will also be ready.

The students have put so much time and thought into organizing and planning our upcoming growing season. I can't wait to see the fruits of their labor...and eat them!

February 9, 2017

The year must be at least half way through- we are now two weeks into our second kitchen rotation. The Elementary students have had at least one run at teaching and assisting with the extended day students. They have begun to ask to lead, not all, but many. Many express that they, "Love being the teacher!" I can't blame them- I love teaching too. I have gotten many comments this year regarding my role in the Junior High classroom, the most of which have been, "Aren't you so happy to be back teaching again?" I've struggled to answer that question because I'm not sure what the speakers of such comments thought I had been doing for the past seven years. We have a an educational kitchen, thus the name, "Kitchen Classroom." We cover many subjects, sometimes all at the same time. We teach about what some may consider the obvious topics, such as sanitation, health, nutrition, and food safety. But we also teach science, math, language, culture, history, and geography. When Montessori envisioned the adolescent program, she focused on the farm model, recognizing that through working the earth for the production of food and products provided opportunities to learn everything necessary, from biology to economics, to become a contributing adult in society.

In the kitchen over the past few weeks we have:

-learned about how yeast release carbon dioxide that causes bread to rise by metabolizing water and sugar
-multiplied and divided fractions and whole numbers in order to adjust recipes
-learned the definition of citrus fruit
-read and applied directions from several recipes
-created global and traditional foods, from pork buns and sesame brittle for Chinese New Year to planning for a Venezuelan Feast for 6th year parents
- located on a map where our citrus fruits were grown, and discussed how the distance from the equator allows for a different growing season, and therefore, different crops

And this is just a sampling :)

Learning moments, opportunities, and connections are everywhere- we just need to take the time to seize them.

January 12, 2017

Happy New Year!
The kitchen got off to a great start, welcoming in the new year with golden corn bread and lucky beans. One of the mainstays of the Kitchen Classroom curriculum is culture; how food is used in our culture and others. As the seasons cycle through, each culture has celebrations that mark times of the year for reaping, sharing, reflecting, rebirth, and sowing. Our new year, based on our calendar, started on January 1st. As the year continues, we will learn that not all culture's calendars start on January 1st. For example, Chinese New Year comes at the end of January this year. To celebrate our new year, the extended day students made corn bread. Yellow, or "golden" colored foods are said to bring wealth in the new year. "Hoppin' John" was on the menu as well, but mother nature decided we didn't need anymore luck.

As the new year starts, our first round of kitchen classroom begins to wrap up. Elementary students come to the kitchen for two weeks a year, in one more week everyone will have finished their first week. Everyone has made a breakfast, lunch, dinner and soup as well as snacks for their own classrooms and for others. The first round student teachers has cycled through. Even though it's been mentioned before, I continue to be amazed by the enthusiasm and ability of the elementary students in their teaching role. Some students have even requested to lead the entire class themselves. Nearly every time the students ask if they will be able to do it again. It has been a concrete reminder to me personally about how important contribution is to each individual. When we can contribute, we are validated as a member of a community. We sense our worth, our strengths, and our abilities. We have a sense of purpose.

"A sense of purpose is the best driving force to live, because when you have a reason to live, you will never have a reason to quit." (Anon)

Here's to all of us realizing our purpose, our many purposes in this new year!

December 15, 2016

Festivals of Light

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire; it is the time for home."  -Edith Sitwell

Out of the "Thanks" and into the "Giving," best describes our past two weeks in the kitchen. From extended day class to lunch to special projects, we have been in full holiday swing. The extended day students made Knish, a lovely potato filled dough treat, in honor of Hanukah. Students learned how to flour their gloves, flour their work surface, and flour their rolling pin. Some even experimented with flouring the floor, flouring themselves, and flouring me. We rolled, filled, cut, and brushed our knish dough and then baked the carb laden goodness until golden brown. After Knish, we rolled right into Christmas sugar cookies, literally. It's difficult to motivate students to roll dough, especially when it will be covered in colored sugar and bear the name "cookie," but, luckily, we found the right folks for the job. :)

This week brought Holiday Sing rehearsals, during kitchen classroom. Instead of the standard class of 6 or 7, we took volunteers to help create lunch for the week. We budgeted space for four upper elementary students to work on lunch so that we would still have enough space for the various cooking projects that will support Festivals of Light presentations on Friday. In addition to Christmas Ham, Kwanza Jambalaya, and Solstice soup, we've also been working on Atto Ladoo, Sweet Potato Pie, Pavlova, St. Lucia buns, and back by popular demand, Bouche de Noel (which is really four projects in one).

In conclusion, as winter winds up, if you are in need of comfort, good food and warmth, look no further than Kitchen Classroom. It is toasty, cozy, and filled with all the treats of the season from around the world.

See you in the New Year!

December 1, 2016

It takes a village...

In one of the many versions of Stone Soup, it literally does take a village to make soup from a stone. Our "village" came together to put on our annual feast that honors the individual contributions that create a strong community. Classrooms had their parts to play in the set up and clean up. Each student also had their own role. Harvest Feast preparation is similar to a tag team battle, except that you have about 100 team mates. Starting Monday morning, we set up the kitchen in sections, organized by ingredient. There may be anywhere from 3 students to 10 students with the same ingredient. As a prep cook finishes with their "3 potatoes" or "8 carrots" they get the name of the next cook that they need to find to fill their station. This process continues all through Monday and into Tuesday morning until the soup, fruit salad and cheese plates are complete and ready for service. Throughout this revolving door period, lunch for Monday is served, and classrooms get and return snacks as if it were any other day of the week.

My most significant observation from this Harvest Feast was the number of times that siblings were able to work together, and what that looked like. Now, as a parent and a sister, I know that not all days are sunshine and rainbows between siblings. But, in those moments when it really counts, in those moments of community spirit, warmth and thanksgiving, the familial bond is so sweet and heart warming- being with family, within a larger family and celebrating what it is to be together and to help one another. For that, I give thanks.

November 10, 2016

Holding on...

Fall hangs on with surprisingly warm and sunny afternoons. Pumpkin Fun has come and gone. Last week, we celebrated Day of the Dead with the elementary kitchen classroom by making Pan de los Muertos with a couple of the extended day classes. We learned about Dia de los Muertos traditions and about how yeast works; two birds, one stone. This week we sifted through the end of the garden produce, saving some for later, and making a vegetable medley for lunch from the rest. Fall is a time for thanks giving, being thankful for the harvest, for the warm summer days, and for those around us who will help us through the winter.

As we turn the corner toward the winter holidays, we will explore the foods of celebrations from around the world. We look forward to Stone soup, holiday breads, and traditional dishes. Through Della Terra, we will also have opportunities to visit local a local tree farm and poinsettia greenhouse as they prepare for the holiday season as well. All the amazing warmth, traditions, and light in the middle of winter is ahead of us. We have so much to be thankful for and to share with one another, from our harvests to our tables.

October 27, 2016

Arrival of the Great Pumpkin
The Sun is done with it's long summer evenings, it retires shortly after the early bird specials. Snow has made it's debut in the weather forecast. And, in line with these signs, the Great Pumpkin has returned. Welcome to pumpkin week in the kitchen! Orange is the new green. We have been scraping and roasting pumpkins daily to try and keep up with pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin enchiladas, pumpkin mac n' cheese, pumpkin chili, and pumpkin hummus. Whew. Watching the process is intriguing. They say that the true self is revealed in times of trouble. Apparently, times of trouble include pumpkin guts. Some folks dive in with reckless abandon, pumpkin strings and seeds a-flyin'. Others are meticulous, systematically scraping and sorting. While another group, inspects the internal aspects of this squash relative, possibly contemplating how on earth humans ever decided to attempt working with this slimy, seedy individual let alone, eating it. No matter the perspective, each disposition, works through their task until completion. By the end of the week, we will have collectively conquered and consumed at least 60 pounds of pumpkin.

Oh snow! Winter has officially sent a "save the date" card in the mail. Yesterday we held off pulling the brussel sprouts in hopes of a few more growing days. But it looks like it's time, time to move the party inside. We have our first crop of rutabagas. At least that's what is said on the garden sign. They look like vegetables big enough to feed dinosaurs- I can only guess it took two people working together to get one out of the ground. We have a short break from farm trips while conferences are going. We just finished up our third trip. Students learned about viticulture, brix, refractometers, geology, birds, integrated pest management, and tree populations in the U.S.. They tasted chardonnay and merlot grapes right off the vine as well as fresh juice from the chardonnay crush. Students also were able to harvest chestnuts which is like rolling over baby porcupines and picking out their soft fuzzy innards, trying not to get poked. I love watching the students observe, wonder, and inquire while on these trips. I learn something new everytime. Poinsettias and Christmas trees are up next!

October 13, 2016

The Harvest Festival was a success! We served a feast of acorn squash soup, massaged kale salad, tomatillo pasta, pesto potato salad, and of course, apple pie ice cream! Thank you to all who attended and to all who volunteered- it wouldn't have been a party without you!

We have re-entered "ordinary time" in the kitchen calendar. Business as usual. Each day at one o'clock, our crew of six or seven scrub in to prep for lunch, create snacks and lead the extended day kitchen classroom. I have to be honest, when I first considered this format I truly believed in the idea, but secretly crossed my fingers. After a few weeks I can confidently report, it rocks! I started with just the upper elementary students, but then so many of the younger students started asking, "When can I lead a class? When can I help out?" Out of chance, I had one day where I only had one upper elementary student so I paired a lower elementary student with them. Beautiful! Now each time, I use the same set up and watch as the pair "own" the kitchen, host the extended day, and share their knowledge.

Della Terra is still going strong. We are holding on to a few squash and rutabagas in the garden as well as fighting off the cabbage worms on the brussel sprouts. Voles have started to colonize the straw bales therefore demolition of said vole condos is slated for the end of the week. Farm trips are off and running! We have visited Birch Point farm, where we were able to see cold frames, pole beans, bee hives, and help dig potatoes. This week brought us out to Zenner Farms in Kingsley where they grow 100,000 pounds of tomatoes hydroponically each year. With each trip, students learn more about our region. What do we grow? What do we supply to the region and elsewhere? How do people make a living? What leads people to choose and/or create a business? How do they find markets for their product? The questions, and answers, are endless. While students collect answers, DiAnn and I collect ideas. How can we maximize our growing space? Our greenhouse? Which crops can you over winter?

As we cross into fall, get out there. Check out the last of the markets- bake some pumpkins, sauce some apples, or just take it all in before the snow flies. :)

September 29, 2016

"Kitchen Tetris"

Well, it's here. Harvest Festival, and the less commonly known event, the week before Harvest Festival. Let's take a look at what's going on in the kitchen...

At one o'clock each afternoon, two incredible crews arrive in the kitchen. One crew of seven students is getting ready to prep lunch, make snacks, and assist teaching extended day students. The second crew of seven to eight students is coming in ready to prep large quantities of food to feed 150-200 folks on Sunday at the Harvest Festival. At two o'clock, four to six extended day students arrive, ready to make snack for their classroom with the help of their older elementary friends (and me). Take a moment to see in your mind about eighteen students, K-6, with chef hats and aprons, each in their spot, with their projects, ranging from snapping green beans to picking chicken. Hear the equipment running, the conversations between pairs, the instruction going on. Notice, no one said "hear the knives," because unlike Hollywood, knives in this kitchen are silent. Smell all the different foods; mint, basil, squash roasting, carrots being peeled, apples being cored, and of course, the onions and garlic! Everyone is intent on their task- three adults move around the room checking in on projects, techniques, and answering questions. With this amount of production, the movement is akin to Tetris, or one of those puzzles where the pieces are attached and you have to get all the numbers lined up in order- one cannot move, without another moving. Stop, go, stop...slide to the right, slide to the left, stand in a corner... Pre-Harvest Fest, it's Kitchen Classroom 8.0.

Each year as I sit with the "Menu Committee," I hold my breath. What incredible challenge will they create for us this year? What will we have to learn to do? How will we make it happen? This year is no exception- given the list of what the garden produced, they have written a wonderful menu, with their own little twist. I hope to see you on Sunday to honor all of their hard work.

"This, then, is the first duty of the educator; to stir up life and then leave it free to develop.
-Maria Montessori

September 15, 2016

School may have barely started, but the gardens have been working hard all summer.  As a result, the kitchen is in full swing processing the harvest and preparing for Harvest Festival.  Student volunteers have been busy each afternoon working on produce as it gets delivered to the kitchen. 

The Harvest Festival is going into its third year in its current reincarnation.   The annual Fall Festival and the annual Harvest Feast were merged a couple of years ago to form the Fall Harvest Festival.  Yes, the name says it all, literally.  Two adult driven events merged into one student led and produced beautiful community party.  Students volunteer for committees and then proceed to plan with either the amazing Carrine Pomaranski, or myself.  The menu is created, decorations constructed, and entertainment planned.  Food is prepared, tables are set, and hosts are readied to greet. An event not to be missed. Please mark your calendars for October 2!  Student committees will be looking for parent volunteers to help with games, entertainment, set up and clean up- please let the front desk know if you are interested.  

In addition all the Harvest Fest hullabaloo, we will begin official kitchen class next week.  The multi-age model continues in the kitchen.  Students from extended day to sixth years get the opportunity to work together.  Younger students enjoy the connection to their older peers, and the older students get the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills with the younger students.  I love observing the sense of ownership fifth and sixth years take of the kitchen classroom.  Many of them are ready to take a recipe and direct their own mini prep crew to complete it.  As always, I look forward to a great year ahead!

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Classroom Support

 

Brenda Lijewski

Brenda Lijewski

 
tch_icon.pngThe Children's House - An Independent Montessori School
5363 N Long Lake Rd. | Traverse City, MI | 49685 (p) 231.929.9325 | (f) 231.929.9384 | email: learn@traversechildrenshouse.org