KIDS IN THE KITCHEN: Southern Hancock hosts cooking classes for kids

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Kristen McQueen directs Katie Schultz and Cora Anderson during their cooking class at New Palestine High School. Southern Hancock is hosting cooking classes for kids — one of many learning opportunities the district offered this summer. Thursday, July 21, 2022.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

NEW PALESTINE — The milk and egg mixture was dripping from his fingertips when Greylan Willard, 10, grabbed the uncooked chicken tender and dipped it into the mixing bowl. He gave it a good soaking before tossing the chicken into a bag with baking crumbs and shaking it, making sure the chicken was covered with breading.

One of his cooking partners, Caroline Evens, 10, had just spent the past few minutes cutting the chicken precisely into evenly sized strips.

“Got to get it just right,” she said while slicing the chicken.

Another member of the cooking team, Kate Reynolds, 10, was carefully placing the chicken tenders on a cooking sheet next to another pan she had filled with coated french fries.

Once prepared, the youngsters placed both dishes into the oven while the team then started cleaning up the cooking area.

“I sure have learned a lot about how to cut the meat,” Kate said. “This class is lots of fun.”

Cooking class was just one of over 10 different summer enrichment camps officials with the Southern Hancock School District offered kids and families during summer break.

The class, taught at New Palestine High School this week, was instructed by Kristin McQueen, a kindergarten teacher at Sugar Creek Elementary School. McQueen and another teacher came up with the idea for a summer cooking camp last year after district officials encouraged educators to come up with some different types of educational opportunities for students, something they would like to teach.

“I love to cook and I love to bake,” McQueen said. “It’s so fun to watch the kids go from not knowing anything or much about the kitchen to being able to cook a real meal.”

McQueen spent time showing students how to use sharp utensils, the oven, all kinds of cooking tools, as well as how to clean up the kitchen.

“Today we talked about the importance of pot holders,” McQueen said. “We’ve been using the stove top all week.”

The week-long cooking camp was open to incoming 3rd through 6th graders with two different three-hour classes each day. They had 19 members in the morning class and another 15 in the afternoon session.

Thursday, July 21, the meal was chicken tenders and french fries. The kids made homemade pasta and pasta sauce Wednesday and orange chicken with rice Tuesday after they started the week making omelettes Monday.

“I’m making the coat for the chicken,” said 10-year-old Carolina Sweazy. “It’s fun and I’m learning a lot.”

She attended the camp last year and learned enough to help her family make her own birthday cake.

“The fries are ready to go,” one of the five groups in the classroom yelled out.

Ten-year-old Sloane Altenberger noted her favorite dish to learn how to make was the Asian meal, even if their orange chicken wasn’t exactly perfect.

“I think our group put a little too much orange in,” Sloane said. “It tasted a little orangey.”

Nine-year-old Halley Wall and one of her fellow cooking mates, Lexi Edmondson, 8, had their chicken ready to cook, but needed to get their french fries coated and placed on a cooking sheet and into the oven.

“I was not a big cooker before, but I think I’m better now,” Halley said.

When asked if she can now help her grandmother more in the kitchen thanks to the cooking class, Lexi said, “Basically, but she always teaches me a lot.”

District community relations director Wes Anderson said officials have worked hard to offer students engaging and enriching opportunities.

“That’s when the learning happens — when kids are having fun,” Anderson said.

The cooking class is part of the district’s larger goal to provide all kinds of different opportunities for students, allowing them to find things they’re interested in.

From cooking, music, theater and even a robotics summer camp, the district is trying to help younger students find things they might like to explore as they begin to think about career opportunities.

“The cooking camp is one of the neater camps we’ve offered, teaching kids lifelong skills,” Anderson said.

The Southern Hancock enrichment camps enjoyed one of their highest attendance totals to date, Anderson noted, with close to 300 students taking part in one of the many camps available.

“Ninety percent of our summer camps are what our teachers want to teach,” Anderson said before he ran over and helped a group make sure their cooking sheet full of french fires didn’t spill.