The best homework

Photo by Chris Barber Faith Boyd, left, and Nicole Duprey display some of the bread that was baked by fourth and fifth graders at Avon Grove charter School.
Photo by Chris Barber From left, students Joe Daghir and Amalie Chase, and King Arthur Flour instructor Paula Gray show a class of students how to bake bread, an assignment they will have for the weekend.

LONDON GROVE -- The prospect of having a three-and-a-half-hour homework assignment over the weekend would be a real downer to most elementary school students.

But when the fourth and fifth graders at Avon Grove charter School were given the charge on Friday of each making a couple loaves of bread and bringing one back on Monday, they jumped right in and embraced the project.

As Administrative Assistant to the Elementary Principal Jen Chromo explains it, a parent told her about the initiative by the King Arthur Flour Co. to give bags of flour (and other materials) to children, teach them how to cook it up, and then ask them to give part of the results to others in need.

Chromo said it sounded like a good idea -- something that would teach the kids concern for others who were less fortunate then they, and she agreed to do the program.

On Friday, during two assemblies, Paula Gray of King Arthur Flour went through the process of making bread with the aid of two student volunteers in front of their classmates. She showed them how to handle yeast, how to determine its temperature and how to measure the dry ingredients. She also showed them how to knead the dough and form it into loaves, pizza dough and buns.

On Monday, the kids came through and brought in a huge pile of breads in bags. From there, the products of the students’ efforts were loaded in a van and taken to Mision Santa Maria in Avondale, and the Friends Home and Food Bank in Kennett Square.

Faith Boyd and Nicole Duprey, both 9 years old and in the fourth grade, spoke enthusiastically of their experience in baking.

Faith said she and her mother decided to turn the dough into cinnamon buns, soft pretzels and pizza crust. She had never worked with yeast before and was surprised how much of an effect it had on the rising process.

“I thought when it was rising it would maybe get as big as half the bowl. But when it rose, it touched the plastic,” she said.

She said another thing she learned was when her hands got sticky from the kneading, she had to add a little more flour.

Nicole was likewise impressed with the effect of yeast. She said she had been instructed to let the dough rise for about an hour-and-a-half in a warm place. But she and her mother put in a warm oven, and it didn’t take that long to rise all the way to the damp dish towel they had placed over the bowl. “It turned out really puffy and big,” she said.

Nicole said she and her mom put the salt and the oil in at the wrong time, but found that the mistake didn’t make much difference in the outcome. She also said her wrists got tired from the kneading,

The girls agreed that they became aware that there were people who could not afford very much, and that those people were probably happy to get the freshly made bread.

Chromo said when she presented the idea to Principal Jen Weaver, they agreed that it would help teach the kids about giving back.

According to the comments of the bread makers, it did have that effect.

Faith said when she was finished the baking, her mother said to her, “You should be proud of yourself.”

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .