Anne Parson’s FSDB Blind High School classroom is a cozy homage to the days when Home Economics was an integral part of the high school curriculum. She engages students in the contemporary world of the Food Network and infinite cooking shows, evidenced by a current Nutrition class project. Each student selects a favorite chef, answers class questions about the chef for his or her “Chef Report,” and prepares a dish from the chef’s repertoire.
In other class activities, students were baking cookies, showing off their skills in stovetop and oven safety while Parsons supervised and quizzed them: “Why don’t we eat raw batter, kids?” and “Why don’t we put our cookies on the bottom rack?” Students in her classes are comfortable enough to offer silly theories (batter gets in your lungs?) and knowledgeable enough to offer quick answers to other questions (cookies will burn if placed on the bottom rack).
Parsons points out that often parents are afraid to let their (visually impaired) students cook at home because of the hazards of heat. This is their chance to shine! Parsons is eco-friendly—her students recycle Talenti gelato containers to store their creations. Students especially enjoy showing off a wooden rack tool they made in Carpentry class, the “push-puller,” to push in and pull hot pans from the oven.
What do you currently teach, and what was your pathway there? I teach four classes of Nutrition & Wellness and two classes of Parenting Skills (an elective). I was originally a Home Economics teacher in the St. Johns School District, working with middle and high school students and teen parents, specializing in child care training and child development. During that time, I also taught child care skills on a part time basis to FSDB adult students who sought to become residential instructors. Then I transferred to FSDB in 2001; over the years I have taught Life Management, Child Development, Nutrition & Wellness courses. I saw a real need for blind and visually impaired students to be more independent.
What happened to traditional home economics? Although the subject of Home Economics is mostly a memory to many today, with new names like Family and Consumer Sciences, the concepts and interest in cooking and home life are still alive and well. Through our Nutrition and Wellness class, students learn food-related terms and nutrients, and study how what we eat influences our health and well-being.
Can you share some trends in your field that you find interesting? Students today are real “foodies”—they watch the Food Network and other shows, and they see see cooking as a real hobby and pastime, not just a necessity. There is so much “instant everything” in foods and lifestyle, technology making home life and food preparation easier —but at the same time, the trend is toward back-to-basics like having home vegetable gardens, reusing and repurposing, and understanding that fresh really is best!
What do you most enjoy about teaching? I enjoy students, period. An