Sweet education: Gingerbread houses teach more than just culinary skills

Shop class students aren’t the only pupils at West Gadsden Middle School learning to build houses this year.

Just before holiday break, sixth grade Fundaments of Culinary Careers students constructed miniature homes from gingerbread. Sweet, sticky icing joined and secured gingerbread planks, while gumdrops and other classic Christmas confections dressed up the stately cookie dwellings’ facades. 

Tongue-in-cheek rhetoric aside, the exercise was designed to be every bit as educational as it was fun, instructors said. Culinary Careers students applied real-world principles of science, technology, engineering art and math when designing and fabricating the gingerbread houses, instructors said. Throughout the exercise, the young aspiring chefs, restauranteurs and culinary artists also practiced food safety protocols learned during the fall semester, affording them the opportunity to enjoy their creations using all five senses – including taste – an opportunity denied their shop class peers, upon completion of a building project. 

Fundaments of Culinary Careers is part of the Gadsden County School District’s “Career and Technical Education” initiative, which aims to make students not planning to enroll in post-secondary education workforce-ready immediately upon – and even prior to – graduation. For instance, local culinary careers students can earn the National Restaurant Association’s “ServSafe” certification as early as eighth grade. 

As a required precursor to many food service industry jobs, ServSafe certification prepares students for the culinary workforce – whether part-time employment while attending high school or college, or as a full-time career after high school graduation. 

Career and Technical Education benefits go well beyond workforce readiness, however, local school district officials said. 

“Career and Technical Education not only teaches students specific employability skill sets, it builds confidence,” said Sylvia Jackson, area director of secondary ed, adult career and technical education for Gadsden County public schools. “This is why there is increasing research indicating students enrolled in [Career and Technical Education] coursework experience higher success rates in school, overall.”

Photos courtesy WGMS


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