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Bake Boxes give Williamstown students tasty hands-on projects

Williamstown High School sophomores Willow Somerville, from left, Riah Sprouse, teacher Shannon Stewart and sophomore Audrey Coiner hold Bake Boxes, cooking projects being sent home this week for the WHS Baking and Pastry Foundations class. (Photo Provided)

WILLIAMSTOWN — Students in Williamstown High School’s Baking and Pastry Foundations class are taking home “Bake Boxes” this week as part of a series of tasty and hands-on lessons.

The students picked up the baking boxes Monday at Williamstown High and will use the ingredients to prepare a dessert at home while uploading videos and photos to show their progress and results.

Teacher Shannon Stewart said remote learning and instruction can be a particular challenge for technical skills classes which tend to require more hands-on participation. The bake boxes allow the students a chance to have fun while practicing those skills.

She collaborated with fellow teachers Victoria Ashcraft at Parkersburg High and Duane Nutt at Parkersburg South to figure out the best plan to teach virtually in a program that relies heavily on hands-on learning.

“The three of us collaborated and we came up with this idea because of the situation with COVID. Our classes are probably 90 to 95 percent hands on. So having to do remote learning becomes very difficult,” Stewart said. “We were trying to figure out, how we can safely get the kids to do labs? What is feasible to do? So we kind of talked through many different scenarios. We actually checked with our nurses at our schools to make sure that the process that we were going to go through was fine with them and they felt comfortable with what we were doing. We just kind of went from there and got permission from each of our principals.”

Bake Boxes supplied by the Williamstown High School’s Baking and Pastry Foundations for students. (Photo Provided)

In previous years, first-year students would be able to bake bread at this point of the year, according to Stewart, but said it is hard for students to do that at home, lacking the proper equipment to do so.

In the holiday spirit, Stewart plans to use festive recipes to end the school year to keep the students’ interest up.

Sophomore Audrey Coiner said she was excited to try this week’s recipe and sample the results.

“We’re supposed to be baking in class, but since we are online we can’t really get together and do that,” she said, adding the bake boxes allow them to cook while seeing what their classmates are doing as well.

“We’ll make it, our family can eat some, we can eat some,” Coiner said. “It’s a win-win.”

Stewart said it took about two days to fully prepare the 32 bake boxes to be sent home this week, and the ingredients have to stay refrigerated, so students had a relatively short window of time to pick up their materials and take them home. Nearly all of the boxes were picked up this week, she said.

The bake box program was developed as a way to not only give the students some hands-on experience, but also to vary the ways they are learning remotely.

“The online learning components can be overwhelming for some students, so this gives them a chance to create and be hands-on,” Stewart said.

Stewart said she would like to see the class develop the technology component even more in the future, perhaps by adapting a baking show competition format. The students already plan to have a decorative sugar cookie competition for the next project.

“I always had my kids enter into the Blennerhassett Gingerbread Contest. Last year I think the Blennerhassett switched hands and they didn’t have the contest. So I just had one within the school. The kids were very bummed that we’re not getting to do some sort of a gingerbread project,” Stewart said. “So they asked if we could do this sugar cookie competition and have a prize for them. I have no problem supplying some sort of prize, I’m excited to participate in something like that and get to bake.”

Contact Tyler Bennett at tbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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