CQ University home economics lecturer Dr Jay Deagon has slammed the decision; asserting the myriad educational aspects inherent in teaching cooking to children. Cooking develops maths skills, comprehension and reading, listening skills and problem-solving – fundamental life skills. “I fear we are losing a grip on what is important for the youth of Australia to know and do,” Dr Deagon says. Dr Deagon points to England and Ireland, who have reinstated home economics in high school because of the obesity rate. The government’s proposed food and nutrition unit misses the point of home economics, instead of focusing on new tertiary qualifications. “We are heading more and more towards teaching ‘subjects’, not ‘humans’,” Dr Deagon laments.
Maria Learmonth taught senior home economics at Emmaus College in Rockhampton and says ‘‘the individuals, families and communities (sic) aspect won’t be encompassed (by the new unit).’’ Year 11 Emmaus College student Rebecca Gleeson-Cherry says, “I like home economics because you can learn about all the different cultures and how they respect their food. Families and relationships bring down generations of cooking”.
While home economics is no longer part of the curriculum in any year level, teachers can still actively develop children’s health care and life skills through education. In Prep, talk to children in their fruit break about their fruit – its nutrition, how and where it’s grown, and the process from picking to the supermarket. Encourage parents to actively involve children in cooking and putting together their lunchbox food. Doing so is a chance to bond with your children, and for kids to assume active responsibility – developing organisational skills, as well – for their health and wellness. Teaching cooking to kids isn’t only about delicious food (though what parent wouldn’t love a specially made home-cooked meal?) No, cooking skills for kids are more than just licking the bowl and beaters of all that gooey delicious chocolate cake mix. Cooking and baking teaches maths skills and early science concepts: fractions, ratios and measuring; cooking tests and improves reading and comprehension; hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Kids learn critical thinking – refining the five senses to discern flavours, textures and smells. Safety, hygiene and spatial awareness are developed with practice over a sustained time.
The success of cooking shows like MasterChef are also responsible for ingraining concepts like sustainability so that kids are aware how food is responsibly sourced; to respect animals and give back to the land. In fact, the Government should extend cooking to include younger kids in primary school. Kids need to understand that food doesn’t miraculously appear every day in their lunchbox. Whether your mini MasterChef is one day awarded a Michelin Star or becomes a three-hatted culinary genius, one thing is next to guaranteed: a lifetime of learning, family bonds, happiness and health, and deep appreciation for where our food comes; from paddock, sea, and soil to the dinner plate.