The Otto Specht School Blog

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More Than Cookies

Some of the students in the Garden House High School program are approaching graduation from High School and  are ready to transition into programs that will prepare them for adult life, with more focus on independent living and job skills. Whether it is cooking a simple meal, account balancing, gaining and maintaining employment, house-keeping, or fixing a button in a shirt, this slow progression to independence starts with caring guidance toward the repeated experience of accomplishing tasks, and getting to trust one’s own abilities. 

One of our classes towards this end is Culinary Arts. We found that one major challenge was making the experience in the kitchen meaningful while meeting different dietary restrictions. As we tried various approaches, we found that, while the students worked hard and learned the skills, they showed very little connection to the food we were making. After exploring many options, we turned to baking, and to the development of our business, Garden House Creations. 

We bake on Thursday and Deliver on Friday, that is our motto. While we accommodate many dietary restrictions, making gluten free, nut free, and vegan options, having the business aspect helped draw all students into the excitement of the project, even for those who still cannot eat all of the items created. There is something in baked goods fresh out of the oven that binds us together, and students and staff alike are often willing to sample the goods. Through our recipe development we learned how to think critically about what we eat. ‘I like’ or ‘good’ is not enough when we are working to improve our products. 

On Wednesdays, we gather for our weekly business meeting, where we discuss marketing and advertising, covering things like merchandising, logos, flyers, and promotions. The students are starting to awaken to their environment and to the wants and needs of their customers. Among other things, the students wrote a jingle and performed it at the Friday assembly, hoping to leave everyone thinking about cookies. “Garden House Cookies, taste so good and fresh; Garden House Cookies, better than all the rest!” Following the meeting, the students move into math class, where they work through their budget. Do you want to be in the ‘red’ zone or in the ‘green’ zone? What does that mean? How do we calculate our budget? How much do we need to make to move to the green zone? 

 Garden House Creations will continue to grow and develop, responding to the needs of our students and of our community, and the student’s work will translate into skills they will carry into adulthood. This is only the beginning of an experience that has provided us with so much more than freshly baked cookies.