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WE Innovate: Applied Chemistry at Terra Nova

At the Beaverton School District's Terra Nova Farm School, students and staff aren't just growing plants, produce and farm animals… they're growing the program. This year, in addition to Field Biology and Sustainable Foods, the District added an Applied Chemistry course. Students learn about the chemical interactions and changes that come with combining certain ingredients. "They're learning to cook and they're doing science and they can eat what they make. They are finding chemical and physical changes while they are making soup," says teacher Annie Reichelt.

The idea to add the Applied Chemistry course developed last year, partly out of a desire to get teachers at Terra Nova full time and fully invested. "We certainly had the capacity to expand. The question was, which way do we grow?" says Administrator Andrew Cronk.

A staff member brought up the idea that there is a lot of chemistry in cooking and perhaps they could combine the two. Cronk said he was skeptical at first, until he remembered how popular the Culinary Arts classes are at Westview High School.

The learning targets for the Applied Chemistry class at Terra Nova are the same as any other Chemistry class in the District. "The way the concepts are conveyed is different because of the cooking component," says Cronk. "It allows the students to put the concepts into practice."

On this particular day, students were making creamy tomato soup, learning about scale and proportion and cause and effect. Students made observations as they cooked, identifying chemical and physical changes. "They will remember this when they are adults. They will remember the ph lesson on tomato soup," says Cronk.

Sophomore Madi Harbert says she initially signed up for the class for a very specific reason. "I want to be a baker and I wanted to use what I learn to make food."

Cronk hopes this is the start of bringing back something that has gotten lost in modern education strapped by budget cuts. "It's the time, space and opportunity to have real, authentic hands-on experiences in something that they can connect to, something they understand, which is food."