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Maritza Arenas, Copeland Hayes, Lilly Sims, Samanatha Martinez and Peyton Castro, from right, strain pineapple for their "Mama Mia Meatballs" during the after school cooking class Oct. 24 at Independence Elementary School.
October 30, 2012
INDEPENDENCE -- Butter, brown sugar, honey and vanilla melt into one another atop the stove as Nevaeh Calvillo and Havalah Altamirano carefully stir the mixture inside Independence Elementary School's kitchen.
The concoction will bind the ingredients of granola bars that the pair and a dozen of their classmates are making, Altamirano, a fifth-grader, explained.
"It's not hard if you remember all the ingredients," added Calvillo, a third-grader. "You can make it at home ... they're kind of easy."
Their eyes widen, however, as the mixture begins to boil over the top of the pot. Before they have time to panic, their teacher, Kristy Vandercreek, steps in to turn off the burner.
"That's probably done," Vandercreek said with a smile.
Vandercreek, an IES instructional assistant, is teaching an after-school cooking class. Granola bars are the dessert on today's menu -- the kids are also making Dijon and pineapple glazed meatballs and apple smoothies.
"I took this class last year and it was lots of fun," said Lilly Sims, a second-grader.
The cooking class is part of an after-school enrichment program IES has run during the last two years primarily on volunteer help from teachers and instructional assistants.
During most of the 2000s, IES operated "Project Primetime," a comprehensive program funded through federal aid. When the grant expired two years ago, Central School District couldn't afford to keep it going, Principal Steve Tillery said.
He proposed to his staff keeping after-school activities afloat. They responded by leading crafting activities, chess, and the aforementioned cooking classes.
Neveah Calvillo, left, and Havalah Altamirano melt together some ingredients for granola bars Oct. 24.
The school charges a $10 fee to participate, though that's waived in some cases. The school's parent club foots the bill for supplies and cooking ingredients.
"It provides an extension of the school day and a safe environment for those where there's no child care at home," Tillery said. "It's an excellent way to integrate more art and curriculum."
Vandercreek, who's been with the school since 1999, teaches two cooking classes and a crafting course to almost 60 youths. On this day, she explained how to follow a recipe, use measuring utensils, the importance of handwashing and other fundamentals of cooking.
Most of the dishes -- lasagna, cookies, smoothies -- are things kids can make at home with their parents, she said.
"I want them to leave with a sense that they're ... creative and that they can make and do things as well as anybody else," Vandercreek said.
Despite a few protests of "Eww" while kneading meatballs from ground turkey and pork, the group seemed satisfied with the end results. Most of them asked for seconds -- and then thirds.
"I can't believe we made this," Sims exclaimed.
For more information about enrolling your child in Independence Elementary School after-school activities or to donate to the program: 503-838-1322.