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Connecting Our Communities

Cooking lessons just the recipe for French learners

St. Teresa of Avila school in Elmira receives grant to host chef à l’école lessons next week


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The food they put in their mouths can help students with the words that come out of them, which is the tasty theory behind the chef-led French lessons at St. Teresa of Avila school in Elmira.

Students in Grades 4 to 8 will be immersing themselves in French culture through a day of cooking classes. A grant from the Official Languages Program Directorate, Canadian Heritage, will fund the chef à l’école lessons with Chef Susanne on September 25. Students will participate in 90-minute sessions with the chef, who will guide students through a recipe for Pets de Soeurs (nuns’ pastries or brown sugar rolls), all in French.

“It’s a really great opportunity to do something in French, so you’re actually using the French that your learning in a way that you can make a sense of it,” says Mary McCullum Baldasaro, the French teacher at St. Teresa.

This is not the first time the school has participated in the chef à l’école, but in previous years students had to pay. It was a cost-effective program, McCullum Baldasaro says, but she wanted to ensure that all her students learning French had the opportunity to put what they’re learning in the classroom into action.

More than a hundred students will be able to take part in the program during the day to not only learn how to cook but to discover more about the language.

“I always hope that the students will gain fluency from actually practicing the French in sentences in meaningful ways. I also hope that it will continue to grow a positive attitude about the interest in French so that they can believe that they can speak it, and that they can use it to do actual things in their life,” said McCullum Baldasaro.

In the weeks leading up to the program, she and her students have been practicing words and phrases that will be used during the cooking lessons.

Chef Susanne has chosen the particular recipe on Pets de Soeurs because of its distinctive name that demonstrates humour that comes through the language. This allows the students to see how certain things get the name that they have, says McCullum Baldasaro.

“I think it helps us to appreciate the particular perspective that another language brings. That adds value to learning, and I think it adds value to our world, where we are increasingly multicultural to look at another culture with appreciation rather than with fear or with a negative view.”

Through the cooking lessons students will also have to learn to work together and discover new skills in other areas to boost confidence, said McCullum Baldasaro.

Cooking and eating is also a great way to build community, she added.

In the evening, Chef Susanne will be running a separate session for 15 students to participate in an additional cooking lesson alongside a parent or grandparent. There is limited space available and students are asked to reserve a space ahead of time.

This session is aimed to help parents get more involved with their children who are learning French, says McCullum Baldasaro, noting the support of parents will help students to believe that they can learn the language.

“I thought, ‘well, if I could have the parents come in, do a little cooking class with their child led by our chef then that would maybe start to convince them, too.’”

Students with any allergies or food sensitivities are asked to send in their permission forms that indicate so. Those who are looking to participate in the evening session can contact McCullum Baldasaro for a reservation.

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