Posted tagged ‘Cooking and Learning’

ELL Class and The UM Cooperative Extension

February 24, 2014

Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin English Language Learners teacher Roanne Dunham has just completed a series of classes in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Classes for beginning English language learners are held twice a week and are sponsored by Auburn Adult Education and LV-A. Here is Roanne’s recent experience:

Each day I allow a few minutes for my students to talk about current events – a holiday or something in their lives that is important. One day, a student asked me, “How do I lose weight?” As a result of this discussion, I did a lesson on the topic. I then decided to call UM Cooperative Extension’s nutrition associate, Ruth Cyr for some additional input.

Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin

UM Cooperative Extension’s
Nutrition Associate Ruth Cyr

Ruth Cyr and I organized a curriculum that would meet goals of increasing students’ reading, writing, math, and language skill as well as include the topics of health, food safety, nutrition, fire safety and physical exercise proficiency. I also wanted this hands-on experience to help students in other areas of their lives such as cooperation, self-esteem, and developing friendships. A tall order but one we successfully met.

Students taking part in the Healthy Eating Program have learned cooking skills, healthy meal and snack planning, kitchen safety, and ways to get more exercise. This Program uses protein sources of beans, eggs, cheese, peanut butter and chicken. Dishes prepared use grains, vegetables, fruits, and dairy along with the proteins. These meals are low cost, healthy, reduced sodium and lower sugar and are easy to prepare.

The students were excited at the start of each class. Every student participated in preparing the meal and in the clean up. To make this event more special, I brought in a cloth tablecloth, which the ladies loved. In each following lesson, the class discussed what had previously been learned. Each session students were able to take home samples for their families to try.

Foods that were prepared included:

  • Squash and bean chili
  • Chicken and biscuits
  • Stir fry
  • Kale Soup with blueberry muffins
  • Thai dish
  • Pizza with onions, mushrooms and grated carrots
  • Bread made in a Ziploc bag
  • Rice pudding
  • Apple crisp
  • Fruit and yogurt parfaits
  • Smoothies

The series of classes ended with a breakfast of cheese, vegetable omelets, pumpkin chocolate chip pancakes and a variety of fruits.

As part of our literacy program the students wrote thank-you notes to Ruth. I put a sample thank-you note on the white board. I then went to each student and asked them to dictate a letter to me of what they wanted to say to Ruth. I then wrote down their words and had each student copy their personal thank you note. One person couldn’t tell me this in English, but I had her tell this to another student and that student told me in English. I then wrote down her words and she was able to copy them.

Quotes from the thank you notes;

  • “Now I can make these things myself.”
  • “My kids liked the pizza and peanut butter, spaghetti, vegetable dish.”
  • “Who is teaching you to make this food?”
  • “My teacher is teaching me to make food that is better.”
  • “The food is good, good cooking. I liked the vegetables. I am cooking for my son now. You cannot have this good help in other places.” (From the lady who couldn’t tell me this in English but told another student.)
  • “My husband asked how I learned to cook this food. I told him I learned in my class. Thank you for your help.”

This teacher loved the pizza with carrots, also the Thai dish and making bread in a Ziploc bag.

All goals were met and exceeded my expectations. The students loved the hands-on cooking experience and became better readers and writers. Their language became more fluent, they were more cooperative with each other, and new friendships developed.

Our thanks go out to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and Ruth Cyr for helping our families by providing a cooking program that developed skills in literacy and life.

— Roanne Dunham

Below is the recipe from the UM Cooperative Extension for Bean and Squash Chili, which was a definite hit! Recipes for an omelets and bread in a bag will be posted later. The Extension offers many great recipes on their website. They also offer lots of gardening, health, and nutrition information. Their booklet on reducing salt in the diet is an good example.


Bean and Squash Chili


2 cans (14 1/2–oz) dices tomatoes with mild green chilies or 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2 cans (15 ½-oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups cubed winter squash (fresh or frozen)
2 cans 14 ½-oz) fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2-3 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin


Combine all ingredients in large pot; cover and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

A half-pound of cooked ground beef, turkey, or chicken may be added. Add hot sauce as well if you like more spice!

Makes 10 servings
Serving size: 1 cup