Engineering versus Cooking in Schools

Posted by Shaleen Meelu on Tuesday, 05 March 2013 in General

Engineering versus Cooking classes

Sir James Dyson said 'Children should get practical lessons in cutting-edge technology and engineering rather than learn how to girll a tomato'. He added, 'This new curriculum will not inspire the invention and engineers Britain so desperately needs.' Interestingly, I think that there are some analogies to make between the two topics being compared. Personally, I think that cooking classes in their traditional format won't bring about the change in food culture that Britain so desperately needs either. 

Clearly both sets of skills - food competency and thinking creatively/practically about the material world are incredibly important. Despite studying physics, chemistry and biology at A-level (2 decades ago), even I wasn't aware of the different engineering subjects until I started my Biochemistry undergraduate degree at Imperial which is well known for excellence in engineering. The majority of students pursuing these subject were international from countries like Malaysia, China, Greece. Coincidentally, they also knew how to cook really well. I have to say I didn't get much out of the school cooking classes and learned more about food from my home and social circle.

Supporting Teachers and other School Staff

My first  job following graduation involved setting up the Biochemical Engineering Education Scheme (BEES). This programme was sponsored by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to raise awareness of the link between engineering and healthcare. We developed workshops, resources for use in school (a mini-bioreactor), curriculum linked lesson plans, training for teachers and activities for science clubs. During this time, I was studying part-time for a Masters in Human Nutrition. So when developing nutrition, food and health programmes for schools and early year's settings in subsequent roles, I've adopted a similar approach. That is to...

  • Develop or use existing curriculum linked resources
  • Provide training for teachers and school staff
  • Engage parents/carers as much as possible through e.g. health promotion events and out of hours activities
  • Encourage children/young people to make the link between what is being taught, the real world and their own lives

My favourite  Free resources for school have been developed by the Food Standards Agency (their Nutrition department moved to DH last year and is now part of the new Public Health England) and also the Wellcome Trust. The FSA Food Route resource includes age appropriate activities and target charts. The Wellcome Trust resources are ideal for older pupils - an oft forgtten group. 

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Hi, my name is Shaleen Meelu and I am the founder of Healthy Futures. I’m also a registered nutritionist and I have helped over 3,000 people embark upon healthy living programmes.

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