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M.J. Giammaria Helps Students Connect through Cooking in a Virtual World

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

M.J. Giammaria is known as the “Kitchen Maestro” in the Ed Lab, where cooking has long been a part of the students’ tutoring experience. In 2018, she received a Friends of UNCW Award to develop a kitchen classroom kit for children to enhance the cooking experience. With continued support from Friends of UNCW, M.J. re-envisioned the project when the Ed Lab transitioned to a fully online learning environment last spring. Since then, she has mailed more than 500 kits to Watson students and their tutees to help them remain connected through cooking in a virtual world.

M.J.’s kits include a set of measuring cups and spoons, a 6" ruler, a timer, a card for measurement conversions and ingredient substitutions, a children's first cookbook which is also a coloring book, and a message from Ed Lab Director Brian Brinkley. With permission from parents, tutors and tutees use the kits to cook together in a Zoom environment during their tutoring time.

“The Ed Lab kitchen classroom kits encourage future teachers to make reading and math real for their students,” Brinkley said. “Even as they teach virtually, Ed Lab tutors make learning engaging, personal and meaningful. Many tutors organized “cook-alongs” and prepared simple recipes like no-bake cookies and trail mix. These recipes were perfect for teaching measurement, fractions and time! Tutors also made connections with exciting children’s literature like Green Eggs and Ham and Stone Soup. There was an unexpected outcome to providing the kits to tutors and tutees: Quite a few science projects were conducted using the measurement materials. Vinegar and baking soda volcanoes never looked so good!”

“We are so grateful to have the Friends of UNCW help fund the kitchen classroom kits,” he said.  “M.J.’s continued support in securing funding, ordering materials, assembling and mailing have supported learning in ways we may never know.”

“When the idea of Kitchen Classroom Kits came to me some years ago, I had no idea it would grow to the size it is today,” M.J. said. “It couldn't happen without Dr. Brian Brinkley's and the Friends of UNCW support. The end of semester surveys for students always speak of the joy they have found in cooking with their tutees and include thanks for the kitchen kits. It makes my heart glad and is a humbling experience simultaneously.”