Inspiring Creativity through Education

I have a lot I want to talk about and this will probably all be a huge mess. I apologize in advance for the slog this will be. I will try and break parts of it up with photos or videos if possible!

…buuuut it’s still going to sort of be a wall of text, so I don’t blame you if you take a pass on this one.

This week, we talked about some of the “hot button issues” related to technology in education and what our own opinions and experiences led us to believe on the topic. I admit that I am far too passionate about this, so this is why it will indeed result in rambling, but I chose to comment on the discussion we had in class surrounding the question of why we teach what students can Google, and the question if curriculum needs to be abolished or changed altogether with the rise of technology and information being readily available at our fingertips.

My opinion is this. I think we should by all means be changing how we teach and how our students learn with the changing environment of our world. I believe that the way we have taught for years is not the best way, and is not the system of success, but the system of the privileged, and the system of the mundane. We do not teach students to learn, we teach students to recite. And this is why I think that technology can shape the world for the better by forcing us to not teach our students what can be found on Google, but instead to teach our students to Google, to be curious, and to want to learn.

         This photo is a gift from me to you called “I      searched creativity on Google with photos that are               allowed to be shared and this is what I got”

         What is the Problem?

School Kills Creativity

I know I saw Ken Robinson’s TED Talk on this topic in my first year of University, so I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has seen it, but I think this video works nicely as the opening point to my opinions on how our education system perhaps does need to change and be adjusted to account for some of its failings.

Here is the video as well, if you want a YouTube video, instead of the TED Talk website.

Basically, the idea is that school encourages students to stop trying new things, to stop thinking outside the box. He states this by talking about how young children are unafraid of being wrong, and are unafraid of failure. And then we give them the consequences for failure that mean that they’ll never want to not succeed again.

And while it is true that failure needs to have some form of acknowledgement, it doesn’t mean that students need to feel as if they are a failure simply because the answer was incorrect, or different than expected.

We teach students that there is only “yes” or “no”, and there is no “maybe” or “let’s try it” or “what about this?” and, in doing so, we give them that black and white idea that one is good and one is bad.

I think that absolutely school kills creativity and it is our job as future teachers to do something about it.

Behind Every Successful Person there is a Feeling on Education

Now, I don’t want to make it seem like I’m being a terrible person, and I’m not saying that education is terrible. Because honestly, I read through about a million different quotes from famous or “successful people” and what they had to say about education, and I disagreed with a lot of what they were saying. So I am perhaps providing a bit of a biased look by choosing the quotes that prove my point, but I admitted to it, so you all know that there is a large amount of bias being shown all over this blog.

But I want to emphasize why I chose to include this part. I made this choice because if our education system was perfect and the way we have organized the system worked then there wouldn’t be legitimate criticisms of the system. Everyone’s heard the list of people who dropped out of high school or university to move on to greatness – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few straight, white males – and people use them as examples. To let people know that they can achieve greatness, that they can do good things, that they are capable of anything, no matter their grades or how they did in school. We hinge self-worth and importance on school, we elevate people by their perceived genius because they excel. But then when we take a look at the people who have played a large part in what has made the world what it is today, we see so many of them denouncing the education system.

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of education have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate  plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. – Albert Einstein

The fact that ideas, that inventions, that science, math, poetry, everything in the world was discovered and created due to someone having an idea or a passion is no secret. Math spent most of its time being manipulated by people with the desire to see more. Scientists like to blow things up in the name of SCIENCE, poets like to see if they can write a poem about having no meaning and artists like to see if maybe driftwood has a hidden figure in it somewhere.

My point is that a lot of what we teach students in classrooms today was discovered by someone who wondered why. Who asked questions. Who tried things. Who failed more than they succeeded. And then we sit there, and tell our students they are destined for greatness. They are destined to be like the ones they learn about who created everything they love. And then we teach them in a system that does not nurture and cultivate the skills needed to do the things they did.

By the way, random aside, I was trying to find the poem I was referencing up there. I could not find it. So maybe Google is not that useful after all……..

Here is, from her best recollection, what the poem sort of looked like in my sister’s memory. Not totally related, I just promised there’d be pictures, so here’s a screenshot of my skype.

         What Happens Next?

 

 

Rediscovering Mystery

Those of you who are in my EMath class already heard me talk about this, so I apologize for the repetition. I found a documentary online the other day, called Rediscovering Mystery. Gonna give my props to Danny O’Dwyer, the video game journalist and documentary creator who made the documentary. He left his old job to start a Patreon so that he could make an in depth series of videos that explore the inner workings of game creation and development. He’s really awesome, you should check him out, look at his YouTube channel if you have any interest in video games in general.

But even if you don’t, you should totally watch the documentary on mystery.

The reason I include this is because I find that the lessons highlighted in the video can also be easily drawn to education and how we should be adjusting, shifting, and changing our direction in teaching. They talk about how creativity in games is dead because of the rise of the internet and strategy guides and FAQs on the internet meaning that it is easier than ever to just give up on a puzzle. They talk about how game development has moved in this direction as well. That if a player can’t solve a puzzle in five minutes, the game will pop up a little hint at the top directing the player. Games hold the player’s hand to an extent where no one wants to figure things out on their own anymore. And the developers discuss how they made their games – Frog Fractions, The Witness, and Spelunky – in spite of these stipulations. All those games are amazing, by the way, check them out. Frog Fractions is also free, Just saying.

In school we hold our student’s hands. We give them hints if they get stuck on a question. We give them a step-by-step guide to do a math problem. We give them multiple choice on tests. And when a student gets something wrong, we shut that line of thinking down, sometimes before they even get to their wrong answer. We work so hard to garner student success instead of thinking about how success should look and feel.

This is why inquiry in the classroom is so important. Because it encourages students to try things, to experiment, to not worry if they get the answer wrong, because often, there is no one right answer. I am a fan of this idea and this doctrine because we are then teaching students to not be ashamed of something that they’ll spend more of their life doing. The majority of people (like, I’d say over 90%, but that’s a made-up stat, sooooo) fail more than they succeed. It took me a long time to learn to make mac and cheese. I still am not a perfect baker, but I can make a mean meringue, who knew? You start every task with attempts and losses, and you work toward the success that means you’ve mastered a skill, idea, task, or concept.

That is what the documentary is alluding to with solving puzzles and mysteries in games. Games like The Witness give you no walkthrough, just a very simple straight line of about five or six puzzles before the game literally opens up into an entire world and you can go wherever you want. I spent my first four hours of the game literally wandering in a village where I didn’t solve a single puzzle because I had unwittingly found the area of the game you should probably do last. The game has puzzles you can go the entire game without seeing, and it blew my mind when I knew there was so much more to explore (literally so much, you can beat the game in the first ten minutes, and like, who knew?).

Frog Fractions has that last idea in it. That there is so much more to it than meets the eye. It is not what you think it is. And sometimes you can play the game and never move past the first section because you don’t know what the game is hiding. And Frog Fractions 2 is so crazy, I can’t even describe it.

Spelunky has a secret boss that is literally an eggplant monster that is literally so impossible to get to, only one person has ever done it without a partner, something even the creator thought was impossible.

That was the obligatory games rant. To show you the lesson these games can teach us.

  • You can figure something out even if someone doesn’t give you guidance or instructions
  • You can try new things and see what works
  • Not everything is how it seems, and sometimes you need to look at information from a different angle to see the bigger picture
  • Something may seem impossible, until you try hard enough

Technology and Exploration

We give students opportunity. We stop using our curriculum to create a hive mind with singular opinions and ideas and instead we teach our students to explore, to want to learn, to desire the answers, to fail, to learn from their failures, to then succeed.

From failure you learn. From success – not so much. – Aunt Billie, Meet the Robinsons

Technology gives us immense opportunity to work with exploration in the classroom. Like, I said earlier, give them a reason to Google, instead of teaching them the facts they can look up.

Here are some of the ways that technology can help us in devising change and opportunity in our curriculum, and how we can rediscover that mystery that is missing.

  • We can use the internet to explore math games with students – my table group and I looked at two websites yesterday in my EMath class – Math Hombre and Plastelina that have various math puzzles to explore and learn from.
  • Of course, there is Desmos and all the graphs you can explore there, and the art you can create.

  • You can do a flipped classroom and have your students watch the content of your class at home, and come to school for help or enrichment – gives you more time in the classroom for exploration, challenging questions, real life applications, and trying new things with the work.
  • You can use resources on the internet to find more interesting and creativity inducing lessons – use pinterest, twitter, any resource that will share ideas with you.
  • Encourage students to use Google, to look up things in class when you don’t know the answer, to research for an inquiry project responsibly.

These are my ideas on how we can instill creativity and mystery into our classroom, on how we can still use our curriculum we have, but teach it in new fun ways that inspire students to fail more than they succeed because that failure is worth it. There is something worth learning in being wrong. That even though you can Google something, doesn’t mean you know the context, or know why it is important. It is up to a student, a class, and/or a teacher to tell us why what we’ve Googled is relevant, and where we go from here.

That was my blog, if you made it this far, you are a very determined soul. I apologize for the length.

I’m a Day Late, but Guess What I Baked (for Yesterday)!

I feel like I try too hard every week to think of a new way to start blogs when I inevitably type “so this week I” every time when I start. I chose to change that phrase into this mess today, so I’m not sure if that’s an improvement, but it’s a difference all the same.

It was Pi Day Yesterday, as probably all of you know, which is so very exciting and inspirational. So inspiring and inspirational that, when I went to think about how I had said I wanted to make mousse this week, I realized that I was missing literally the perfect opportunity for math and baking. Like, if it’s Pi Day, I think I am seriously failing as a baker if I do not make pie!!!

I was in Regina this weekend so I made my pie with the lady who is related to me in a very complex way involving ” third cousins twice removed” and things like that. She is an excellent cook and an excellent baker, so it was awesome to learn from her. We did like, everything from scratch. We made the graham cracker crust (which like I have NEVER made, I didn’t even know that was a thing people did). It wasn’t that bad, even though I second guessed myself constantly as I was pressing the crumbs and butter and sugar in to the pie plate.

The recipe itself called only for egg yolks, so we did some egg separating! I saw it happen! It was a thing! I didn’t do it myself because she does it with like, the two egg shells and the pass it between the two thing, and I don’t think I’m nearly talented enough for that. Next weekend I am going to try the pop bottle method and let you all know how that goes.

The pie filling needed to be heated and stirred until thickened, and that was also incredible, because that happens so quickly. Like, for the first ten minutes, nothing was happening and I was stirring liquid and thinking that maybe we’d done something wrong and were just going to have to eat coconut soup and call it pie. But then, over the course of like 30 seconds, suddenly it thickened and was doing the slow bubble thing.

When it was finished, I put that stuff into the pie crust, shoved it in the oven, and we went about making the meringue.

The recipe we had technically asked for a dream whip topping, but we had all these egg whites, so we whipped them up with sugar and stuff and made a meringue! I have never ever never ever never seen that done before. Ever. And I have certainly never done it myself! Let me tell you, the most exciting thing in the world is when the eggs start to like, get more frothy, and then you add sugar and like, it turns into magic and I think I’m a wizard, Harry.

Once we added the meringue on top, and ovened it for a bit, we left it outside to cool (yay Canadian winters! Good for something, I guess!)

The pie was really tasty – I am a fan of coconut, it’s a different kind of sweet that I don’t find overwhelming. So this was a great success and I learned a ton!

I learned how to make meringue, I learned how to separate eggs the ‘old fashioned’ way, I learned how to make a graham cracker crust, and I learned to trust a recipe when it says the coconut soup will thicken.

 

Now, obviously, I think that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t tie the making of pie with pi. That would be just a missed opportunity, don’t you think?

 PC30.1 – Extend understanding of angles to angles in standard position, expressed in degrees and radians.

I’d like to point out that I don’t think I would use the pie for the discovery and understanding of radians, because I think there’s some useful treaty and Indigenous content there involving basket weaving and the inherent way some First Nations’ groups use pi without calling it pi (six hands and a thumb…so I guess tau technically, but let’s not get into that debate right here right now on the use of pi and things, I would rather we were all friends and ate pie instead of debating (at this moment, I am a fan of a good old fashioned debate, but I didn’t put my debate shoes on, so I am not prepared)). So instead, I think I would use the pie to introduce the unit circle. Make students actually make the cuts and see the sizes and I don’t know, it’s not exactly inquiry or anything complex. I just think it could be fun to have students looking at a tangible model of the unit circle and to be measuring and cutting the angles out.

Not as in depth math as some of the others, but I also think that there is so much less fun had in pre-calculus, so you know what? I think we all deserve to cut up some pie once in a while!

This Post is 140 Characters too Long

 

If you have been following me on Twitter at any point during my ECMP 455 journey, you will have noticed a common theme in some of my tweets. For those of you who are following me on Twitter, I sincerely apologize that you are subject to my tweets. But I also apologize that you are subject to my blogging, neither can quite be called well-constructed or organized.

Anyway, common theme time in the form of photos I took of two of my tweets:

 

 

Put those together with the title of this post, and I can bet you have a pretty good idea of my relationship with Twitter. My problem with Twitter is not that I don’t like it. And it’s not that I don’t think it is useful.

Here are the things I think Twitter is useful for:

  1. Connecting with educators all over the world
  2. Sharing resources with said educators, asking for advice and insight, and receiving resources back
  3. Bookmarking interesting resources and articles so they are easy to find later
  4. Keeping linked in and connected with the occurrences in the world, based on specific themes, tracked by the use of hashtags
  5. Participating in live collaboration and various #edchats

And I think that all of those factors coupled together make Twitter an interesting and extremely useful concept. As it’s been stated in class and by classmates often, Twitter is very useful professional development, and it is pretty unique in allowing you to connect with people that will help you and are willing to share resources.

I think that all of those feelings and opinions on Twitter have come about in the last little while as I’ve been learning more about Twitter and hearing about how some of my classmates utilize the social media platform. I was always reluctant to see it as useful, because I don’t think it is actually useful for me, and here is where I will tell you why:

  1. I am terrible at talking online. It is honestly one of the most terrifying things to me. I think it’s the permanence of the whole experience. Once I write something, everyone can read it. And what if what I am saying is misconstrued and someone disagrees with me?
  2. I am long winded person. I talk way too much. And while I am working on that in the classroom and as a teacher, I find no real reason to change that about myself in my every day life. Mostly because the people who I surround myself with don’t mind who I am, and so why should I adjust that if it is not harming anyone. The reason I work on it in the classroom is because of time limits and student engagement and involvement. My classroom is not the “Sarah Kirschman Show”.
  3. There was once an argument on Twitter that I was accidentally involved in and it scarred me for life.
  4. Writing a Tweet, between being self-conscious of what it sounds like and 40+ characters over the limit, takes me much longer than I am proud to admit.

So the problem lies in the fact that I have come around on Twitter. I like what it does for people, and I like the idea of connection and collaboration from different places. But I am unable to be a part of the community myself due to crippling fear of judgement and my inability to just-shorten-my-sentences.

The last thing I want to mention is that Twitter was a thing when I was in High School, but it has significantly decreased in popularity in the younger generations. I see Twitter as being useful for teachers to get resources, but not to connect with and educate students because they don’t really use it all that much anymore. In my Internship, I don’t think a single student talked about their Twitter. But I don’t know, maybe some of you had a different experience than me and let me know how you think it’s useful in the classroom?

Well you all have an excellent weekend, stay warm, and here is a picture of the cat I take care of occasionally just to round out this post nicely.

Here are some Cooking Videos I have Discovered

So this week I went back to Yorkton again because my hometown and I have attachment issues and cannot be apart for too long. But this weekend my family decided to paint their ceiling in the kitchen, and thus I had no way of baking as I was down one kitchen.

I decided, because I am unable to cook this week, I would instead find some videos online on how to bake some things and also a video on how to actually separate an egg. Because I’m really stuck on this egg separation thing, it just sounds so fancy.

The video I found on how to separate an egg white was by this super excited man who has a YouTube channel called “Greg’s Kitchen”.

He showed how to separate an egg, and honestly, this looks like the easiest thing in the world, I can’t believe it. I looked up baking things that require you to separate an egg, so I think next weekend I’m going to make chocolate mousse or something. Because you know, I always wanted to know how to make mousse and it just so happens that it contains separated eggs, so it’s a match made in heaven!

I watched a few more of his videos and he seems to make a lot of simple, cheap, and easy to follow recipes. And if you can get past just the worst jokes ever (I can’t tell if they are cringe-y or amazing, honestly), he has some pretty decent recipes. I don’t think I would use his channel for any other cooking routines because the bad jokes just don’t do it for me, but it he did more small tutorial videos of this sort, I could see them being useful. Either way, he taught me how to separate an egg, so stay tuned to see if it is actually a viable method for me!

After that, I just started watching different YouTubers. And I have one to share that I found on my own, and one that a friend linked to me about a week ago and kind of inspired the blog post because of my lack of kitchen.

I found a channel called “How to Cake it“, and I think I may use one of her videos in a later learning project, because I thought she was super nice and genuine and her recipes are all about the artistic side of  baking, which I hadn’t even considered to be something I should also learn! Also, I lost a bet recently, and I owe a friend some baking, so this seems like a good enough project as any. Also, it’ll mean I will upgrade from “from a box” baking, and actually make my own batter.

The last videos I found are from a channel called “You Suck at Cooking”, and it’s technically a cooking channel, but there are some desserts as well. I’m not going to link to a specific video here, if you want to see any of the videos, you can check out the channel on YouTube, but there is a little bit of language, so keep that in mind. Trying to keep my blog appropriate for all readers. (Even though let’s be real, what informational value is there here?) The videos are….weird. It’s like, a robot and sometimes a human cooking food with decent instructions, but poor execution. I think it makes more sense when you actually watch it. I personally think the videos are funny, and I do think that you could learn how to make something using one of the videos because the recipes are simple.

 

But anyway, here is my super short update for this week, hopefully we’ll get back on track next week when I actually have a kitchen again. The goal is to make mousse, but we’ll see what happens!

Birthday Week 2 – Cake

Team, team, team, TEAM! I had my birthday! It was my birthday, I am the best.

I get a little bit too excited when it is wonderful birthday time. I maaaay have reminded my family it was my birthday more than ten times.

So I made my birthday cake, but I didn’t use an online resource for this week’s baking project, because this week I learned from a real live human resource – my  Mother.

How special, me and Samantha cooking a whole two cakes together. And we didn’t even fight!

The cake we made is called a “push cake” according to my Mom, which I guess basically means that you poke holes in a cake and fill them and there’s whipped cream and chocolate-y caramel-y goodness.

I did most of the actually baking, my Mom just directed me in the steps. Her first bit of advice came when I was making the cake. Cake from a box again, next time, I am going to bake some form of thing from scratch because I want to learn how to separate an egg, as this is mysterious goal #1.

She adds 1/2 a cup of milk and 1/4 cup of half and half cream to the recipe instead of the water the recipe asks for because it is more creamy and less healthy, so clearly it is much better.

dsc_0307

I mixed the cake. I actually used a timer this time instead of just counting in my head, so it was probably mixed better than my cupcakes. Of which I still have some. So many cupcakes, why did I do this? I made a mistake. A pretty delicious mistake, but now I have cake, too. This baking project is helping me learn my own ability to estimate how much food I need.

I also got to have the batter off the beaters, which is bad for you, don’t do it!

 

…but I totally did, it was great.

dsc_0308

The cakes went in the oven for about 20 minutes before we took them out, poked a ton of holes in them, and stuck em back in. This point taught me an interesting lesson. Remember with the brownies, where I was like, not sure how long to bake them and they weren’t baking and I was distressed?

One of the cakes, which was smaller, baked quite quickly. The other was hardly baked when we pulled them out to poke them with holes. The one was a little over 1/2 the size of the other, so  it was interesting to see how much the size of the cake affects how quickly it will bake. The larger cake baked for 15 minutes longer than the smaller cake, that’s a huge difference, in my opinion.

dsc_0309

The holes we poked were filled with dulce de leche which sounded so fancy, I was impressed. It was caramel flavoured. Which they don’t usually have, Sarah, so this is very exciting, it will taste so good.

dsc_0311

The cakes were put back in the oven after the dulce de leche moment.

dsc_0312

After they’ve been pulled out, we had to wait for them to cool, which takes so long, let me tell you. I think the worst part of baking is the waiting, I am not a fan. 0/10, would not recommend. Unless you want cupcakes and/or cake, then I guess it’s worth it.

After it was cooled, we covered the top of the cakes with cool whip, caramel sauce, and chocolate chips. And there we go! We did it!

dsc_0319

If anyone wants an actual recipe, I can post it as well with my best attempts at describing all the steps and ingredients!

dsc_0320

The cake was great, I am fond of birthday cake, and I sure sang to myself as I ate the whole thing. Cause I am great.

There is a picture of the cake, but it looks extremely ugly, so I’m not going to post it, I was not the best photographer at that moment.

 

For the math lesson I went with the inquiry approach again. I am surprised I am finding so much opportunity to bring in inquiry , I thought I would mostly include face-value, very basic word problems. But I think they are little more in-depth than that, things that I could legit see myself using, so that’s exciting.

My question would be regarding surface area and volume. Asking students the question “how does poking the holes in the cake affect both the volume and the surface area?” and then letting the students use whatever methods they’d want to measure surface ares and figure out how they could find the volume of the irregular shape. I found two outcomes directed toward surface area and volume, and both also involve units of measurement.

I think it would be cool to see what students could come up with in measuring the cake, what tools to use, what units to use, decimals, or fractions, things like that.

I’d imagine the easiest way to do both the volume and surface area would be measuring the tools used to make the holes in the cake rather than the cake itself. But we’d see if students would come up with that idea.

That’s the idea I have, I think it would help students learn to add and subtract shapes from each other, to break down irregular shapes into shapes they do understand, and to work with estimations and exacts with tangible volumes.

Outcome: WA10.5

Demonstrate using concrete and pictorial models, and symbolic representations, understanding of area of 2-D shapes and surface area of 3-D objects including units in SI and Imperial systems of measurement.

Outcome: WA20.3

Extend and apply understanding of surface area, volume, and capacity using concrete and pictorial models and symbolic representations (SI or imperial units of measurement)

 

Let me know what you think of the math, and if you’d like me to put out a recipe, I am totally down to write out an awful version of what I did to make a cake.

Birthday Week 1 – Cupcakes

So my birthday is in two days and anyone who knows me is aware that I like to celebrate my birthday for the entire week before and after the day because then I can boss my sister around and make her do stuff for me because “it’s my birthday”. It totally doesn’t work, for the record, but we’ll pretend it does.

I had my birthday party this year in Yorkton, as you do when you’re from Yorkton and it is the best place in the world, and you are totally not 22 so of course you need to have a birthday party where all you do is play Jackbox Games and Overcooked and horror D&D (which is not really D&D and my best friend gets mad at me when I call it that, but most people wouldn’t know what I was talking about if I said ‘we played Dread’).

Of course, when one is hosting a birthday party they must include food for said guests, including pumpernickel bread and that’s about it because I love pumpernickel bread more than my life. But I also decided I would try my hand at baking some goods for the party. Usually I just get an ice cream cake and call it that (I did that, too, but I also baked) but, seeing as I am learning to bake, I figured I may as well make some cupcakes.

So, on the day before the party, I sent my loyal minions, sister and friend who plays video game with us and totally cheats, to the store to buy me ingredients for cupcakes. I thought I would continue the trend I had and work on honing a single skill before moving on to more complex baking, so I asked for boxes of cake mix again. Vanilla and chocolate, as I decided I would learn to fill my cupcakes and have those “filled cupcake” things (turns out, spoiler alert, you don’t bake the cupcakes with the filling inside, so I kind of failed at honing my baking fillings thing, but I did learn a ton about baking, as you will soon see). They came back and said “so we bought three packages of cake mix. Because did you want vanilla or rainbow sprinkle batter, Sarah, we didn’t know so we bought both even though we know you LOVE rainbows so clearly there is a winner here”.

So I made 60 cupcakes.

I still have cupcakes and I made them on Saturday. So many cupcakes. I still have like, at least 15, if not 20. There were only 13 people at my house, what was I thinking, 60 cupcakes????

But that is neither here nor there. The point is, I made the cupcake batter, which was pretty easy. I did learn a bit about how to bake better cupcakes from The Food Network, which is also where I found my filling recipe. I didn’t use all of the tips, but I did learn about how the time you spend mixing is important, because you need to spend enough time to let air in and make the cake light and fluffy, but not too much or else it becomes tough.

I didn’t take any photos of the cupcake batter because that was the easy part. None of that caused me any issue, so I am a pro at box cake and brownies now!

Then came the fillings. I used the Food Network website to find my recipe, as I said, and I chose to make three different fillings that looked yummy and exciting – cookies and cream, cookie dough, and banana. This is where things go bad, worse, and then better.

So I followed the instructions on all three, the cookie dough, banana, and the cookies and cream. The cookie dough looked okay, but the banana was not doing the “make stiff peaks” thing that was in the instructions, and instead was just a sad, goopey mess.

dsc_0280

And the cookies and cream just looked awful.

dsc_0279

And I was like, I am not serving this to my people, they will laugh at me and I will be fired. FIRED.

And then I was like, time to quit, Sarah we are throwing in the towel, have a good day, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

But as the mountains of cupcakes on my counter slowly got bigger and bigger, I was like wow, I have way too many cupcakes. But also, I was like I have so much free time, no one is getting here until five and it is 3:00. And then I was like Sarah, you can do this, be the Little Engine that Could and think you can….

So I tasted the fillings to see what was wrong with them.

The cookies and cream one tasted like butter cookies. I knew I needed more sugar. So, I added more confectioner’s sugar, but it’s a kind of short and sweet sweetness to that sugar, where it doesn’t feel like it permeates the baking so much as a flash in the pan it’s done sort of thing. So I also added some brown sugar because it was there, so why not?

dsc_0283

It tasted way better after that. And looked better, although I don’t think you can quite tell in my photos I took.Then to the banana which just tasted like sour sadness. And I thought, what kind of dessert do I like that has banana in it? Maybe I can make it taste something like that? And  you know what I like? Banana cream pie. I added more banana to overpower some of that sour taste, and I looked around my house for some kind of graham pie crust. And I looked all around my house and found corn flakes. And I was like, “Can’t get any worse”, so I crushed some of those up and added them in. And threw in more sugar for good measure.

dsc_0282

That looks like a thing you’d kinda want to eat, maybe! Trust me, it had a much better flavour, so I was pleased.

dsc_0285

Now, to wrap this up, I’ve been talking far too long, I made the cupcakes, decorated mine (everyone could decorate as they wanted) and the one I took a photo of had the cookie dough in it.

dsc_0289

It was real good, so I count that as a success!

Next on the list for me is to make myself my birthday cake! I think I’m going to use a family recipe, so I will learn some baking tips from my family!

As for the math lesson, I am really very pleased that so far all of my learnings and failures in the project have coincided nicely with some mathematical thing I could see it being applicable for. With this project, I thought of how I had to adjust the quantities of things in the recipes, and sometimes add my own strange ingredients in order to make it taste just right. So I thought about linear inequalities with two variables.

Outcome: P20.9 Expand and demonstrate understanding of inequalities including:

  • one-variable quadratic inequalities
  • two-variable linear and quadratic inequalities.

And how, if I were to adjust a recipe to make sure it tasted the best, I need to make sure that I am still keeping it within the bounds of proper taste and structure (so you can’t just not have any banana in a banana recipe. What if you were to make a formula that included the base instructions for the ingredients you’d want to adjust (2 tbs of sugar=2s, 1tbs of salt=t)  and you’d want to make sure your recipe stayed under however many tablespoons or something altogether. So like, you don’t want to have more than 20 tablespoons of either (2s+t ≤ 20).

Now, let’s be perfectly clear here. I don’t think students are going to learn much from this lesson. I don’t think this is the sure-fire way to help students understand inequalities with two variables. But I do think that this is somewhat of an extension of the first lesson I thought of, with adjusting ratios of one ingredient, now we’d be working with changing multiple ingredients, and completely messing up any ratios. I think at the end of the day, it’d teach students more about baking than math. But I think the lesson I’d want them to take away is that math also involves trial and error. Not all attempts are going to succeed, but we can try new things and keep throwing out suggestions, and maybe, even if we don’t come to the perfect answer, we’ll come up with something that leaves us more satisfied than when we started with a goopey mess.

Cheesecake Brownies

I decided to up the game this week for my learning project by continuing on with a skill I think that I struggle with in baking. I think if I isolate the problems that I have, I can improve in those areas and make baking easier for me. So, I think I’m going to take a few more baking projects in the theme of “adding some sort of filling to a basic food stuffs to make it more of an exciting foodstuffs” before I move onto the real learning, where I try some more advanced baking techniques, like separating eggs, and googling other complex baking strategies.

So this week I made brownies. And I decided the filling I was going to add was cheesecake. So I made cheesecake brownies. I looked through three blogs, and I decided on the blog I used for two reasons:

  1. I wanted to isolate the filling problem, so I wasn’t quite ready to also make brownies from scratch, so I used a recipe that called for brownie mix.
  2. The photos and comments on the blog were helpful in seeing what I needed it to look like, and also gave me the advice to add chocolate chips.

dsc_0264

This is the mix I used, it, as well as the cream cheese I bought, was on sale in groups of two, so I doubled the recipe and saved me some money.

The first thing I decided to do was get kind of funky and add some chocolate chips. Because who doesn’t love chocolate chips?

dsc_0263

The recipe said to stir without a mixer, so I was like “but what do I use? A spoon?” and then I decided to be daring and use a whisk because my mind was like “whisks do the mixing thing”. And let me tell you, that was my first mistake of the day. Word of advice to people attempting to use my wonderful blog to make brownies – if you use a whisk, it is too feeble to get through the thick dough so you’ll be scared it’s going to just break into a million tiny pieces in the batter and it’ll be a very stressful experience overall because you are too stubborn to change your mind so you just power through it.  The whisk didn’t break. I suspect it was a close thing.

dsc_0266

Then I had to take a break because my dog wanted to go outside and then she came in with her little nose covered in snow and it was just too cute. So I took a photo of it for everyone to share. She, unfortunately, spent most of the cooking sitting next to me all nicely, and was not even rewarded with some baking because chocolate is not good for dogs and I am a good dog owner.

The actual putting the two bowls of batter together was relatively simple. Except for the whisk part. But we won’t talk about that. The batter was delicious by the way, I give it a 10/10 in deliciousness.

dsc_0267

My second big issue came when it was time to bake the batter. Here is a photo of it all in the pan. It looks super ugly, do not judge me.

dsc_0268

Look at that goop-y mess. This is where I ran into difficulty. The recipe said I should put the brownies in for 35-40 minutes and so I did that. But they were not cooked. So I put them in again, five more minutes. They were not cooked.

It was a real struggle  because I would worry that I was burning the brownies, so I’d pull them out, but they weren’t cooked so I’d put them back in. ‘Twas a vicious cycle. I think I cooked the brownies for about an hour before I was okay with the amount of cooked they were.

dsc_0271

Look at those awful brownies. They look so gross, Sarah.

In the end, the brownies were a little overcooked along the edges, but it was perfect in the center, and they tasted great! I think I ate way too much. Coincidentally, the brownies were cooked right before Valentine’s Day, which is awesome. I used to make (aka, make my Mom make) brownies on Valentine’s Day and I would give them to my single friends. Singles Brownies on Valentine’s Day because we all deserve chocolate on Valentine’s Day, so let’s remove the negative stigma of being single (#singlelife) because sometimes people don’t want to be in a relationship but they also want brownies.

So I will probably give brownies to some people. Not necessarily single people. Seems like too much of an effort to go searching for single people. Also seems a little aggressive.

For the lesson plan part of the learning, I chose to look at Math 9.

I thought, because I struggle with figuring out how long something takes to cook, we could use graphing of linear relations to find out how long it would take to heat the entirety of the brownie.

Outcome: P9.1

Demonstrate understanding of linear relations including:

  • graphing
  • analyzing
  • interpolating and extrapolating
  • solving situational questions

 

I think it could be pretty inquiry based, seeing as there is no real correct answer, as there are outside factors that affect it, and it won’t really be a completely straight line. But students could either make their own assumptions based on cook times in recipe books, do small scale tests and extrapolate the data, figure out what it means to be “fully cooked”. I think it could be fun, and maybe it would solve my problems with baking times.

I think it would also create some interesting discussions – what data in real life is actually linear? Do we ever have instances where we assume as such and are proved wrong? What do you think factors in to how fast the food cooks? Do you think all factors can be accounted for? What are some ways to account for outside factors? Can we eliminate some factors?

I always like questioning. I did a lot of questioning with my students because it was fun to hear what they had to say.

Do you also stress about baking times, because boy, let me tell you…

Have a great day, don’t feed your dogs chocolate, but pet them or something.