This week I had the honor of taking four fabulous culinary students up to Lane Community College in Eugene, OR for a culinary competition. Each group of two had submitted a menu for round 1 of the competition and had been selected among many other high school culinary students to move on to round 2.
Many thoughts ran through my mind as we made the early morning drive to Eugene. Did I prepare them enough? Did they prepare enough? How is their level of skill going to match up to the other competitors?
When we arrived they were presented with a brand new knife kit and chefs coat for winning round 1 of the competition. Watching them unwrap each knife and revel in the fact that they earned these because of what they accomplished was amazing.
The moments leading up to the competition start time were filled with anticipation. My students were second guessing if they would be able to identify all of the products, complete the math problems, and be able to create a meal from the black box of ingredients provided. The conversation was filled with words of reassurance and last minute discussions over google searches.
Students were led back to the culinary classrooms as spectators were left in a room with a screen projecting a live stream of the competition. To be honest, it was hard to watch. I so wanted to hear what they were saying, be able to give them encouragement, and give little words of wisdom. However, this was their time. This was the ultimate summative assessment. How well were they able to apply their skills to this ultimate challenge?
When my students came back from the challenge they looked exhausted, but their sense of accomplishment was palpable. I loved hearing my students say, "I don't care how well we did, I'm so proud of us". Those words melted my heart, I was so proud of them too,
The afternoon drug on forever as we awaited the results of the competition. When the moment finally came and two of the four were announced as first place winners, we could all hardly believe it. I was so incredibly proud and excited for my students, but at the same time feeling sad for the two that didn't place. I wasn't quite sure how they were going to react.
This is when I realized the power of the game. My students embraced the two that won 1st with such genuine love and excitement. They were all a team. It didn't matter if one team came home with a higher ranking than another. They had accomplished something amazing. They succeeded in demonstrating their understanding under incredibly difficult circumstances and obstacles. Though the extrinsic award was great, the intrinsic award was much greater.
On the drive home one of my students opened up about what culinary meant to her and shared something powerful. She said. "When I signed up for culinary my freshman year, I didn't know if I would like it. I was an introvert and didn't know if I would enjoy working in a group. But, I have made incredible friendships and have learned and grown so much by working together as a team. Culinary is my place now... it is home." Those words will stay with me for a very long time. This is a perfect example of the magic of gamification and project-based learning. Collaboration. Problem Solving. Growth. FAMILY.
Tech Integration Specialist in Southern Oregon and author of Make Learning Magical. I'm passionate about finding innovative ways to transform teaching and create unforgettable experiences in the classroom.