Giving students real-world context for their classroom learning.

by Andrew Mogle

Grades 9-12


I believe in creating real world contexts for the work that students do in my culinary arts and hospitality classroom. More and more, communities are looking for an authentic connection to schools through volunteering.

Doing community service in the context of their education makes what they learn relevant and directly applicable to the world outside of school. We don’t ever have to ask the question: When am I ever going to use this?

As well, working in the community gives students, as citizens, a direct window into why their community is the way it is and what they can specifically do to help make it better.

In my classroom we run a catering facility and a restaurant. Students provide a set of services, from menu design to preparing, cooking, and serving food for school and community events.

Our projects are aligned with all of the core curricula:

-They access writing skills when they write a menu and the descriptions;

-They use math when costing out ingredients and making measurements; and

-They apply science concepts through examining the nutritional balance and value of a meal.

While all students have a common goal, each of them reaches it in a different way. This promotes self-reliance, ingenuity, and resourcefulness, dispositions that we aspire to have all students cultivate as a result of their education.


What I did well…

The challenge to move outside the comfort and protection of the classroom is a difficult reach for students and teachers. This is something teachers will struggle to control. The fact is turning over control of the learning process to the students is a difficult transformative objective for teachers who are taught to “control” their classroom. I feel the portion of the session focusing on the debriefing/reflection came across with the strength I desired. Offering students the time to reflect, and digging deep into the volunteer opportunity allows students and teachers to dismantle the project. Once dismantled, the pieces can be evaluated separate from the whole. This level of introspection brings students and teachers face-to-face with the connection the classroom instruction has with the world outside the safety of the classroom.

What I would do more of, better, differently…

The conversation about the reflections didn’t reach the level I would want for future sessions. I believe the addition of sample reflections would truly strengthen this portion of the activity.  Reflection is the key piece of the puzzle.  One of the essential elements for a successful volunteer opportunity is a well grounded understanding of what the students actually derive from the process. Answering the question, “How does the classroom learning impact the world I live in?” is essential.

I still want to grow this practice by…

There are two elements of this practice that I am still trying to improve/figure out: First, while all students have a common goal, each of them reaches it in a different way. How can I continue to develop and promote self-reliance, ingenuity, and resourcefulness? These are dispositions that we aspire to have all students cultivate as a result of their education. The second element that I continue to work through is the cost associated with bringing the classroom into the real world. Transportation and supplies cost money.

About Andrew Mogle

Andrew currently teaches Food and Nutrition, Food Production and Technology, and Culinary Arts. Andrew leads a highly respected Culinary Arts progr...

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