A Happy 20th Birthday Story: Learn. Bake. Share

1 Small group bread on table

A guest post from Life Skills Bread Baking Program manager/senior instructor Paula Gray.

Don’t you love happy endings? I do. This story begins at the end. And, it’s the story that is 20 years old.

THIS is what happens at the end of the story that is repeated week after week in schools all over the country – lots and lots of bread. How did all this beautiful bread get here? And where is it going?

Students in grades 4-7 made these gorgeous, love-filled loaves to donate to hungry people in their community.

More than 200,000 students have happily baked and given with help from King Arthur Flour since 1992. And now we’re asking for their help – maybe your help – to gather and share stories from the Life Skills Bread Baking Program’s first 20 years. If you’ve hosted or attended a Life Skills program, we hope you’ll send us your memories of the experience! You can email us at LifeSkillsStories@kingarthurflour.com. But back to the story…

Yes, kids ages 9-13 years old learn how to make real yeast bread from scratch at a Life Skills Bread Baking Program® presentation at their school. The recipe makes enough for two loaves; one to SHARE, and the other for the kids to eat themselves.

If you turn back a few chapters to the beginning of the story, you’ll find 200 or so kids in a gym, eyes glued to a presentation.

Here you see an instructor from King Arthur Flour and two helpful assistants assembling bread dough, demonstrating tips and techniques, and explaining the steps. Everyone in the room can see what’s happening on a screen, so it’s kind of like a cooking show at school! Exciting stuff!

So exciting that sometimes, a TV crew comes to the school and films. Here’s a quick clip from a recent presentation in Frederick, Maryland: Students Learn to Bake Up Some Warm Generosity.

Teachers and administrators are happy, because baking uses lots of skills all across the curriculum: reading, following directions, sequencing, measuring, estimating, (a recipe is really a math equation, right?) critical thinking and problem solving, scientific observation, hypothesizing… And it incorporates artistic skills, nutrition information, food safety, properties of matter, and more. You can read testimonials from teachers here.

We teach how to make three basic loaf shapes – a baguette, a sandwich loaf, and a beautiful braid. Students decide which of the three shapes to make for their donation.

But students also learn how to make bread sticks, pretzels, cinnamon rolls, and even how to toss pizza dough! They’ll get to eat these delicious things themselves.

Kids take materials home to bake their bread. Let’s see what happens there…

Measuring flour properly is one of the secrets of bread success. Even though this photo is a bit blurry, the concentration and skill still come through! Note the dough scraper – every child receives this essential bread baking tool.

 

Bread baking can be a little messy once the gluten starts to form.

Sometimes dough is sticky, but the kids know how to handle that by using a whisper of flour.

 

Then comes the fun of kneading: fold, push, turn…

Kids know that yeast gives off carbon dioxide. This dough is filled with it and is being deflated gently, ready to turn into something gorgeous and yummy.

Cinnamon rolls are really popular. They’re especially pretty when you use the secret cutting method that the kids learn at the demo.

When friends get together to bake, that means a fun project over the weekend.

After 3½ hours of effort, TA DA!

Bread comes back to school and is delivered to a food pantry.

Sometimes, kids share their bread with someone who’s particularly special to them – a neighbor, a friend, a grandparent.

THE END. But is it really the end of the story?

Because bread baking is a skill you use for years and years to come. And we still have lots of schools to visit… maybe yours! It’s easy to apply to host the Life Skills Program. And the program is FREE.

The Life Skills Bread Baking Program is celebrating its 20th year! Over 200,000 kids (many of them now are grownups!) across the country have learned how to make bread from scratch, and helped to feed thousands of people in need.

We would love to hear YOUR Life Skills story. If you’ve ever attended or hosted a Life Skills presentation, please drop us a line at LifeSkillsStories@kingarthurflour.com and tell us what you remember about your experience.

Happy baking!

Allison Furbish
About

Allison Furbish is a native of the Upper Valley, where King Arthur Flour is based, and an avid lifelong baker especially enthusiastic about anything chocolate.

comments

  1. Holly

    Love idea of skills learned and sharing. Not to mention wonderful homemade yeast bread.

    How is the issue of certified commercial kitchens handled for bread baked in kitchens and given away?

    Holly, there are a couple of options for sharing bread: If the school can locate an organization that will accept home-baked goods, then the school can make a large donation there. Another option is for each student to share a loaf with someone special to them. Either way, kids can experience the joy of sharing something they have made themselves. Thanks for asking! -Allison

    Reply
  2. "Paul from Ohio"

    What wondrous things KAF does. This is absolutely THE BEST way to teach kids. What better than doing something with the reward of “my own loaf of bread mom”!! Very very cool. Keep up the good work for at least another 20 years!!!!

    Thanks, Paul – we intend to! -Allison

    Reply
  3. Cathy R

    What a fantastic program for young kids and their communities!!

    I learned to make bread when I was about that age and it has been a lifelong obsession.

    Reply
  4. Margy

    It must be serendipity! My church bulletin this past Sunday had an insert from the Baltimore Catholic Review. Imagine my surprise to see that the featured article was about King Arthur Flour’s recent visit to 2 of our local parochial schools. This is why I buy from you–your dedication to quality, service, and the community makes you a standout above most of the other companies out there. God bless you and your work!

    That’s wonderful to hear! We love that the program reaches not only the kids we teach but others in the community who see it in the news – and we hope it inspires them to bake and share, too. Thank you for your support – it’s what enables us to continue putting our values into action! -Allison

    Reply

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