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ADDING SPICE TO EDUCATION

Kara Miller scrapes salsa from a blender. ().
Kara Miller scrapes salsa from a blender. ().

By Andrea Barkan

Pilot Staff Writer

A long-awaited home economics class finally materialized at Azalea Middle School four weeks ago in a classroom featuring three kitchens, 15 sewing machines and a washer.

Five eighth-graders used two of the kitchens last week to make chips and salsa while the rest of their classmates finished paper work.

"This is the dangling carrot," Teacher Joi Gleason said of getting to cook (and eat).

"If you have your work done, you get to cook on cooking days," Gleason said.

All 160 students enrolled in the year-long class must pass a myriad of safety tests, she said.

The county health inspector taught a food handler's course to each of the six classes.

More than half the students passed, Gleason said.

Those who passed and wanted to pay the $10 fee even got a food handler's certificate, she said.

Students are learning about the dangers of cross contamination.

"The kids are becoming aware consumers," Gleason said.

Every student working in the kitchen Thursday passed the lab safety test, including eighth-grader Jayme Peterson.

Peterson said one of the most important things she learned is the "danger zone."

If you leave food out in temperatures ranging from 40 to 140 degrees, bacteria multiply rapidly, she said.

"I've learned a lot," Peterson said.

Ronnie Fairchild sampled salsa she made with Peterson and Kara Miller.

"I've just learned better cooking tips," Fairchild said.

"It's important for kids to learn to make healthy snacks," Gleason said.

But students will learn more than cooking skills, she said.

Other lessons will include first aid, CPR, babysitting, nutrition, sewing and (at parents' requests) laundry and ironing.

"This is a pretty practical class," Gleason said.

They will make quilts for Project Linus, an international organization that donates hand-made quilts to hospitalized children.

Azalea students make quilts for the pediatric ward at Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City.

Gleason added that the number of quilts students can make will depend on how much cotton fabric and batting is donated.

Many of the tools used are furnished by Gleason, who said she has become an expert at spotting yard sale deals, but more supplies are needed.

The class did not begin immediately because school administrators did not think they could fund it, Gleason said.

But that changed after school started.

"They had more kids here than anticipated and the budget came out better than anticipated," Gleason said.

She couldn't be happier.

"This is my dream job," Gleason said. "This is so cool. And the kids are so excited."B

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