Learning In the Kitchen


Myla Lahti

Rylee Nicoletti, a Spanish II student, prepares the traditional Spanish dish, Arepas.

Rylee Nicoletti, Master of Marketing

During a couple weeks in November, students in Spanish classes experienced a different way of learning. Traditionally, learning is accomplished through reports, presentations, and homework, right? Not in Spanish! Profe Ripley took a different approach with her classes and used cooking to bring some authenticity to teach the classes true Mexican culture. “Learning a language involves learning about cultures and customs yet it can be restrictive to teach “culture lessons”. A more natural hands-on project like cooking gives students an opportunity to develop a feel for the kinds of foods and flavors that make up part of the cuisine of many Spanish-speaking countries and also learn a bit about holidays and customs in the process. It simultaneously creates a festive, collaborative environment in the class.” The halls were filled with the smells of different delicious food made by each class.

The eighth-grade clase de Español took on the challenge of cooking quesadillas and arepas. The Spanish II and III students expanded their cuisine experience and added a different dish to their menu. This dish was in honor of Halloween. It was called El Pan de Muertos, or the bread of the dead. This was a bread with an orange, milky glaze and caramelized sugar on top. This way of teaching helped students a lot, especially Lilly Tapani. “I am a tactile learner. I had a lot of fun learning in this way.” Along with el pan de Muertos, each class fried quesadillas, and arepas. Quesadillas are a Hispanic dish that has become quite common in households throughout the United States.  Quesadillas are tortillas that can be filled with anything the cook deems delicious and grilled.  The classes chose to make theirs with just cheese.  Ordering in a restaurant, it is not uncommon to add diced tomatoes or chicken with the cheese. Arepas, on the other hand, are much less common.   Arepas are a maize (corn) flour and water mixture that is deep fried in a pan of hot grease. After they are fried, they are topped with cinnamon and sugar, salsa, cheese, sugar or consumed just plain!  They are an extremely popular dish in Venezuela and Columbia.

Providing hands-on learning experiences creates opportunities for students to really understand the topic. It is a great way to teach the “at-home” aspect of culture.