Learn how to make bread. Go home and bake some. Then share it with your family and community.
That’s the motto and purpose of the life skills program that Vermont-based King Arthur Flour has been bringing into elementary schools for the past 20 years. Last week, it was instructor Pam Jensen who brought the program to fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Birch Lane Elementary School.
Alongside student assistants Megan Abbanat and Maya Parker — both sixth-graders at Birch Lane — Jensen taught a multipurpose room full of kids how bread is made from scratch.
They mixed together the water, flour and other ingredients, kneaded the dough, and left it to rise. Later, they learned how to cut and shape the dough to make bread loaves, cinnamon rolls and even pizza.
Along the way they practiced their math skills, followed a recipe and learned the science behind rising dough.
Megan learned how to braid dough to make an attractive-looking loaf, while Maya practiced the art of tossing pizza dough — her favorite part of the morning.
At the end of the day, all of the students went home with a bag full of flour, yeast and other ingredients, as well as instructions, so each could bake two loaves of bread — one to share with family and another that will be donated to Davis Community Meals, which serves three meals a week at the Episcopal Church of St. Martin in Davis.
Teacher Amy George, who organized the event, reminded the students that “it’s your job to do this — not your parent’s, not your grandparent’s.”
“This is something you are going to do using your own hands, your own time, to help people,” George said. “A lot of people in our town need help, and it’s our job to help them.”
Because Davis Community Meals likely would be overwhelmed by hundreds of loaves of bread being donated all at once, the students will be given staggered deadlines for baking their bread and bringing it back to Birch Lane for delivery to Davis Community Meals.
Meanwhile, the school’s first- through third-graders will play a different role: collecting and donating spreads for the bread, including things like peanut butter and jelly.
Jen Danzer, case manager with Davis Community Meals, praised the students for their efforts.
“At Davis Community Meals, we help people who don’t have as many resources as the rest of us,” she told students. “Not everyone can provide enough food for themselves, and the bread you all are baking is going to go to the people at our meals and who we provide shelter for.
“We have a lot of volunteers,” she added, “and now you guys are volunteers, too.”
Danzer said she doesn’t recall children ever baking bread for the program before, adding, “this is a really fun project and it gets the kids involved in the community.”
They join the legion of young bakers that King Arthur has inspired over the 20 years its life skills program has been around. Jensen, who has been an instructor for two years, recently returned to a school in San Francisco that she first visited two years ago and learned that some of the children she taught bread-making skills to back then were still regularly baking bread.
“I hope there’s somebody in this room who wants to make bread of the rest of their lives,” she said of the Birch Lane students.
Learn more about King Arthur’s life skills program at www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/life-skills-baking.html.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy