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The Young Skilleteers: Cooking in the Kitchen and Helping in the Community

by Myke G.

Columbia Community Montessori in Columbia, Missouri launched The Young Skillet Summer Camp in July of 2008 with a group of 16 children (between the ages of 4-13 years old) who attended for no charge. Over the six-week session, our first group of Skilleteers filmed and starred in a children's cooking show that airs on CAT TV in Columbia. Children learned how to shoot cooking scenes, conduct interviews, and produce documentary-style film segments about the gardening and cooking skills they learned. Campers grew and harvested tomatoes, basil, garlic, and oregano and used their crops to learn how to can vegetables and to make fruit salad, homemade ketchup, and pasta sauce. We visited other local growers, visited livestock and picked blackberries for homemade preserves. (Interestingly enough, several parents of the participants reported a renewed interest in school following the hands-on experience with the Young Skillet, and some of the children have sworn off powdered lemonade and store-bought bread because they prefer the homemade variety they produced over the summer).

Many summer camps and extra-curricular activities are too expensive for many families in Central Columbia’s First Ward. Therefore, the Young Skillet Summer Camp fills a great need in this community for high-quality, free, safe, and educational summer recreation. Columbia Community Montessori, the sponsor of The Young Skillet Summer Program, is a 501 (c) (3), non-profit organization working to provide low-cost, high-quality education to families of need in Columbia’s First Ward.

The Young Skillet Summer Camp sprung up organically from a series of kids’ cooking shows my brother and I and a group of kids produced here in Columbia, Missouri for the local cable access channel. Each episode, the children grew more and more interested in getting their hands on the camera. When we were invited to run a kids’ filming camp weekend for the True/False film festival here in town, we discovered that, of course, the kids have great ideas and unique insight when it comes to film/video production. And after three days at the Film Festival, we started talking about combining the film instruction with the cooking show, and The Young Skillet went from a kids’ cooking show to six-week gardening, cooking and filming summer camp. What you see on the video excerpt was shot mostly by the Young Skilleteers themselves. They filmed each other each day, in the garden, in the kitchen, on the van and in the hallways and classrooms of the Youzeum, which has kindly donated their fantastic kitchen classroom facilities for the pat two summers.

The Young Skillet Summer Camp is currently underway for the summer of 2009, and this year we are busy cooking and filming with the goal of producing homemade pies!

If you have any interest in our program, we would gladly send you the entire version of the Young Skillet Summer 2008 documentary DVD free of charge. Please contact Myke Gemkow at columbiacommunitymontessori@gmail.com.

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