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Cooking Up Learning connects history with local culinary partners

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

Innovative educators seek ways each year to tie engaging, hands-on learning with curriculum they're teaching in school. For one DuPont Elementary School teacher, that is precisely what she's doing - with cooking. DuPont's Tarah Kemp is tying together cooking in her school's culinary lab to what she's teaching her students in the classroom.

Kemp's idea began a couple years ago, when she participated in the Public Education Foundation's Teacherpreneur Program. Thanks to PEF's partnership with Benwood Foundation and Hamilton County Schools, Kemp's program idea Cooking Up Learning came to fruition when she won several thousand dollars in seed money to start her venture. Kemp also participated in Teacherpreneur Accelerator last year, a program that provided Teacherpreneur alumni the opportunity to develop strategies to scale the impact of their original idea across the district as part of Hamilton County Schools newly launched Innovation Cohorts.

Last month, Kemp collaborated with Lodge Cast Iron and local chef, Michael Price, to connect 19th century history to modern day cuisine. This included learning how food traditions can be shaped by regions. "My students were engaged in three different areas of the culinary lab, talking about the process, and working together as a cohesive team," shared Kemp. "We all had to be excellent together in order to enjoy the final culinary result." Kemp connected TN State Standards to her lesson by contrasting regional differences in the early 19th century, including the emerging urbanization in the North, the expansion of the plantation system in the South, and the developing West.

Tarah Kemp enjoying classroom discussions with her students

The first activity involved Lodge Cast Iron & American Foundry Society's Metallurgical Engineer, David Fletcher, sharing a historical overview of the Lodge foundry, as well as metallurgy and how it can connect to the industrial revolution/importance of innovations during the 19th century. The class project, called Foundry in a Box, allowed students to experience a craft skill that they had never been exposed to before. Fletcher, along with coworker Amanda Suttles, demonstrated to students how to pack a metal/tin mold. Students were also taught about the foundry industry, while partaking in the hands-on mold making and pouring themselves. Each mold consisted of four patterns that students were able to break off and keep as souvenirs, many wearing them as necklaces or keychains. Thank you to both Fletcher and Suttles for taking the time to share a fun, new learning experience with Kemp's students!

Chef Michael Price collaborating with Cooking Up Learning students

The second collaboration activity consisted of local chef, Michael Price, teaching students how to cook foods that were popular in the south during the 19th century. For many students, not only was this was their first time learning cooking skills, it was their first time being able to tie an authentic learning experience with cooking back to what they're learning about history in the classroom. "When I saw the collaboration between my fourth graders and Chef Michael, there was a natural trust and level of communication that radiated throughout the entire culinary lab," said Kemp. "Having an expert in cast-iron cooking helped link my students’ learning on the regional differences in America during the 19th century and early Industrial Revolution." Price led the cooking session for all Kemp's classes, while students learned to compare and contrast foods they eat today with popular southern foods eaten during the 19th century, including fried okra, beef gumbo, and Johnny cakes. Upon the lesson's completion, students enjoyed eating everything they learned to cook. And the last little surprise? Lodge and Price sent students home with their first miniature cast-iron skillet! Kemp shared, "At the end of the day, during the reflection time, my favorite comment came from my student Laila M.: 'When is he coming back?'." Thanks to Price for sharing his cooking expertise with the students, as well as Lodge for providing cast-iron to use during the learning sessions!

Kemp's Cooking Up Learning clearly demonstrates what's possible when you have an idea that positively impacts student learning that they will remember for a lifetime. We are looking forward to many more innovative, cross-curricular collaborations in store for Cooking Up Learning as Kemp works to expand and bring this innovative initiative to more students in more schools in the future - stay tuned!

Want to read more about Cooking Up Learning? Check out the Facebook page or contact

*To view all photos from last month's Cooking Up Learning events, keep scrolling...


*Slideshow Gallery (Lodge & American Foundry Society visit):

*Slideshow Gallery (Chef Michael Price visit):


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