Recently at The Miquon School, first graders were very keen on making food. The teachers saw this passion as an opportunity to build on their students’ food-related curiosity with a new unit that would touch on many first-grade level skills and concepts.
“When asked if they would like to make their own real restaurant, the children’s response was an enthusiastic one,” explained Ben Coleman, first grade teacher.
What emerged from this passion was a cross-curricular study, including math, measuring, spatial work, number sense, writing, planning, and the science of baking and cooking.
As plans began to form, the group used the essential question, “What do people do in restaurants?” to focus their research.
It was agreed the restaurant would be named the Wolves’ Den, and several children prepared large-scale paintings for the space. Next the first graders estimated they would have 50 patrons on the day of operation.
Following this, the children tried to split 50 into three groups. Using Unifix cubes, they worked through the math and determined there would be two groups of 17 and one group of 16.
When the restaurant opened, the children played the roles of the chef, dishwashers, and wait staff all working to prepare and serve the various pizzas available on the menu. Servers took orders on cards that were easy for first graders to read and user-friendly for cashiers calculating the cost of each meal.
The following day, the children counted the earnings, tallied the most popular menu items, and used graphing activities to portray results.
During the restaurant study, teachers integrated grade-level benchmarks for speaking clearly (in welcoming and seating guests at tables), listening and writing using letter sounds (when taking food orders), reading using sight words (when reading the orders), and adding and subtracting the cost of the meal using place value.
“It was both the culmination and the application of all the skills they learned,” said Rossana Zapf.