May, 2022 – An after-school credit program at St. Lawrence Secondary School (SLSS) is offering students a unique hands-on cultural culinary experience. The Indigenous Culinary program, which is new to the school this year, brings in a variety of guests from across the country – both virtually and in-person to share with students Indigenous culinary.
Kelly Hutchingame, a culinary teacher at SLSS and creator of the after-school program, says the need for additional Indigenous learning opportunities and an option for students to earn a credit were her driving forces for wanting to create the program. The program, which quickly filled up with eager Grade 7 to 12 students has been pumping out both knowledge and delicious foods.
“This after-school credit program follows the Indigenous education curriculum for learning and allows students from various backgrounds to gain knowledge, skills, and earn a credit, which are all key for student success,”Hutchingame said. “I have one Grade 7 student who has been learning about his culture, learning to cook, and already earning a high school credit. When I met his mom, she was very happy her child was given such an experience and he’s been sharing recipes with the family. As we’ve been coming out of COVID-19, the need for after-school credit options is very important and much needed.”
Since the program started in October, there have been a variety of guest speakers to the program.Hutchingame shared that each time there is a guest speaker, it adds authenticity to the class and is a great opportunity for students to connect, and hear their stories that are so diverse from Indigenous culinary individuals.
Recently, the program welcomed cultural advisor Clint Atkinson, who shared his culinary background with students and showed them how to make fry bread tacos, a classic Indigenous delicacy.
“It’s something my family had on their menu in one of their restaurants. It’s actually one of the first things I had ever made,” Atkinson, who is a chef and entrepreneur, explained to students. From making the dough and rolling it, to browning the meat, and cutting vegetables, the students not only refine their culinary skills, but also expand their Indigenous culinary knowledge. Throughout the cook, Atkinson incorporated lessons every step of the way.
Alana Thompson, a Grade 8 student at SLSS has been learning a lot during her time in the after-school credit program.
“This has been really important to me because I’m also learning about half of my culture,” she explained, addingthat prior to this class she didn’t have a lot of knowledge on her background, but has certainly enjoyed learning about Indigenous foods.
Thompson encourages other students, whether it be in this class or on their own time, to learn about Indigenous culture, food, and history. “We normally express ourselves through cooking, so for example, if we were going to a party, we would bring food to say thanks for having us. Thanks for cooking. It’s our way of giving thanks.”
The class of about 20 is a mixture of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, which adds to the cultural learning experience. Indigenous students like Thompson are learning about their culture, while others who may not have Indigenous backgrounds are learning from Hutchingame, guest speakers, and peers.
“I want this classroom to be a safe and inclusive environment for all students to feel welcome, to learn and to be their authentic self,” said Hutchingame. “Cooking allows that venue because we’re used to cooking being a sense of community, we’re used to cooking and it being an act of sharing.”
Grade 8 student, Emily Cooper has thoroughly enjoyed learning further about Indigenous culture and cuisine.
“I’m learning a lot during the after-school credit class. It’s important to me because it adds another perspective to our learning.”
Once the cooking is complete and the serving station is set up, students put together their meal and sit together to talk about both their day and also what they’ve learned in each class.
“I’ve been having a lot of fun and even made a few new friends,” said Thompson.
Atkinson hopes students will have a greater appreciation of Indigenous culture, cuisine, and be inspired to look for new opportunities to get outside of their comfort zone. “I think this program at St. Lawrence Secondary School is very important because it teaches students outside of the traditional school day and it gives the kids a great opportunity to interact with each other through hands-on learning and allows them that extra oomph.”
The after-school Indigenous culinary program runs every Tuesday until the end of the school year.Hutchingame hopes that it will continue again next school year with new and existing faces.