Most of us did some cooking or sewing when we were in junior high or high school. Some of us likely have fond memories of baking cookies in junior high or high school, but things have changed so much since “back in the day.” It’s not “Home Ec” anymore; it’s Family and Consumer Science—FACS in acronym—and PORTA High School offers a rich array of opportunities under the FACS umbrella.
Britney Jones, FACS teacher and club sponsor, joined PORTA after searching for a Family and Consumer Science Teaching position in Chicago, only to find there were not many openings. When she saw the opportunity at PORTA, she jumped at it, delighted to be living her dream of being a FACS Teacher. As she stated, “I am a huge Disney fan and I believe dreams do come true because here I am, proud to be a Bluejay.”
As the teacher of the many FACS classes PORTA offers, Jones has seen the approach to teaching about food evolve over the years. Whereas cooking used to be the province of females, Jones has “a lot more males taking my classes than females.” These students are also in the kitchen two to three times a week.
Of the many classes PORTA offers, such as Foods, Parenting, Housing, Child Development, or Culinary Arts, Jones recommends that students take Foods I and II and Child Development, if nothing else, from the FACS curriculum. As she argues, “Foods I and II are crucial life skills classes to have in your life. Everyone needs to know and understand the importance of reading a recipe, cooking your food thoroughly, practicing safety and sanitation in the kitchen, and understanding nutrition to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Jones also recommends Child Development since everyone will encounter children, whether or not they become parents. Child Development explores caring for children from newborns to teenagers, so when students learn about the emotional and social development of children, they’re also learning about themselves. Jones “loves to talk about [her students’] childhoods and use their real life experiences to learn from.”
FACS classes integrate well with other classes students take, as well. Jones explains, “We incorporate FACS with math every time we double and divide a recipe; with history when we learn about the history of food and different cultures of foods; and with science when we understand the sciences of cookies and why we get crispy, puffy, or chewy cookies.”
Students who are interested in pursuing a career in Foods can take Culinary Arts, which is an advanced class. In that class, students pick their own recipes and make their own grocery lists. They prepare Sweet Treats for Teachers once a month, a highly regarded and much-anticipated event for the school faculty. They plan and prep a theme for each month, covering some twenty-two units of study in the first semester. These units include learning about the roles of people in the kitchen, creating a menu, etiquette, catering, restaurants and drive-thrus, as well as a thorough grounding in various meals/food such as breakfasts, appetizers, salads, and pasta. In the second semester, the students explore American food, then “head overseas” for International Food Studies.
FACS Club, a companion extra-curricular club to the FACS curriculum, gives students the opportunity to take the skills they’ve learned in FACS classes and put them to work in the community. Jones described, “FACS Club is a volunteer club that helps pay it forward to the community. We volunteer at Roots on Thanksgiving for the Community. We also write a nice check to help them purchase food for it. We donate time and toys to the Menard Animal Shelter; we make blankets for Project Linus and donate them to St. John's Children Hospital; we always help other clubs by baking goods for them to sell to help make a profit for their clubs; we cater for the musical cast and crew. We do a lot of behind the scenes for the school and community.”
Community members who would like to support FACS activities are invited to donate new canisters for flour and sugar. Contact Britney Jones a email@example.com if you or your organization would like to help.