On Backwards Learning & Pizza Dough

I am writing this blog post after returning from making pizza dough with fourth grade students.


I am forever struck by the energy, brilliance, and focus that young children can put in to any activity that they find engaging.  Pizza dough is fun… pizza dough is real… and pizza dough has the promise of being yummy later.  But did I also mention:


  • That we used different flours to see the differing results?
  • And that this will promote tomorrow’s discussion of the historical farming of wheat (and the different properties (carbohydrate, protein, and oil) of these varieties and how this impacts their suitability for pizza dough?
  • That we will plant different varieties of wheat to test their agricultural value?
  • That we talked about hydrophilic versus hydrophobic substances?
  • That we talked about whole wheat flour and its properties versus regular flour? And then made a direct connection between this historical high incidences of diabetes?
  • That the children wondered how the dough got elasticity and that this yielded a discussion on the gluten protein and chemical bonding?
  • That we did the math on the cost of our ingredients and compared it to a pizza dough from the store?
  • That we were at a dairy farm on Monday and this brought about discussion of how yeast seems to be like the cultures in raw milk? (something we can discuss in our next class… not exactly the same, but I appreciate the Grade 4s observations. An investigation of the science, politics, and law surrounding raw milk also remains on our learning agenda from our trip to the dairy farm).


If you read the above list you can see that we hit Ontario Ministry expectations in science, language, mathematics, inquiry, social studies, law, & politics.  More work is needed, but this is how we will meet and exceed all curricular expectations.


The best classes are backwards compared to the others.  They start with the activity and the enthusiasm of the children leads to the lessons.  At Teacher’s College we are taught the opposite approach – teach the lessons, test the knowledge, and when the children graduate they will put the lessons to use in some activity.  We can see, over and over again, the dismal success rate that approach is having with our children.


So we are building a school that does things backwards.  We put children back in to our community.  We give them real problems and real experiences.  After all, what is knowledge if there is no opportunity to apply it?


From Principal Mark Brown, November 16th, 2016