c is for cookies

Everyone loves cookies, especially children; it’s little wonder why so many people around the world have incorporated baking cookies as an activity in their children’s classes. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that we’ve celebrated Naw-Ruz with cookie-baking several times now. Others have made it a tradition to bake cookies for ‘Ayyam-i-Ha. Children are genuinely proud to bake and decorate their own cookies—the sense of accomplishment that comes from successfully following a recipe can help children gain confidence in their abilities. When we tried our hand at baking, the children enjoyed it immensely, and looked forward to sharing with their families. Some of the children had been so industrious in making the cookies, and had amassed such a stack of them, that they started sharing their cookies with anybody they could find.

Baking cookies is pretty easy, and a quick Google search will turn up some good recipes. Good preparation is key; try making your own batch at home before the children’s class to make sure you understand how to do it (if you don’t already). A nice thing to bring along is a set of nine-pointed star cookie cutters—readily available online from Indiana-based Special Ideas. For those whose baking skills are more advanced, you may want to try your hand at Baha’i Cookie Temples—cookie models of Baha’i Houses of Worship, akin to gingerbread houses. (I seriously doubt my own skill level is that high!)

Jessica Craig, a seventh-grade student in the state of Washington, USA, recently wrote the following in an essay for United Nations Universal Human Rights Day; it might be nice to mention as a way of tying in the cookie-baking with Baha’i principles!

“Every cookie is made up of basically the same thing […] flour, sugar, and baking soda. For humans it might be our brain, heart or lungs which are all the same, and completely necessary to be alive. In cookies you have the basic ingredients but the things that make each cookie different may be you add nuts, or dried fruit and chocolate chips! […] All human beings are the same, but all of us have different beliefs and ideas.”

Related post: naw-rúz – baha’i new year, spring

naw-ruz cookies 5

“gingerbread cookies, fresh out of the oven!” from dragfyre

naw-ruz cookies 7

“in the midst of decoration” from dragfyre

naw-rúz (take 2)

Today’s lesson: naw-rúz.

March 24, 2007: 2 hours, 7 children, average age 7. We had a blast with this class—and it was mainly thanks to the help of certain blessed souls who were ready and willing to give up a day or more’s worth of time and effort in preparation to help make it a reality. The day started with prayers; like last year, we sang “Blessed is the Spot”. The kids’ conduct during prayers has greatly improved since we started focusing our efforts on that part of the class. Our main activity for the day was baking cookies—what better way to make Naw-ruz a special event? The children could scarcely believe their ears when we told them; they thought we were joking. But it was not so!

I asked my mom (of course) to come help us bake cookies. She prepared individual bags of three kinds of dough for each of the children, brought cookie cutters, rollers, trays, flour, decorations (i.e. sprinkles, different colours of icing, etc.) and so on. The children spent over an hour rolling the dough, cutting out different shapes (sometimes making up their own), and, once they were fully baked and cooled, decorating their munchable masterpieces. They took home bags of cookies to share with their parents, cousins and siblings. No joke—they were genuinely proud to have made their own cookies and were looking forward to sharing with their families. Some of the children had been so industrious in making the cookies, and had amassed such a stack of them, that they started sharing their cookies with anybody they could find. Here are some photos of the whole process:

naw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookies

Room for improvement? Well, we were actually expecting some parents to show up and share the afternoon with the children; lack of logistical coordination meant that didn’t happen. We didn’t spend nearly enough time reminding the parents that they were invited to stay; written invitations (instead of the verbal invites) would have helped tremendously. I had expected to give a more adult-centred presentation of Naw-Ruz, which subsequently bombed—meaning we didn’t have much of a “lesson” per se; once I noticed that the kids were getting bored of my waffling, we jumped right into washing our hands and getting ready for the cookies (which was the right thing to do, I suppose).

Kudos? Obviously, to Mom for basically planning the entire thing in about a day; she had even planned more (including making decorative bags) but we ran out of time! Many thanks go to Dad for taking photos. Also, big ups are owed to those who helped keep the class under control during transition time. One thing that was pulled off remarkably well this time was discipline. We’ve had some discipline problems with one child in particular, and it’s really taken all of us to handle him and run the rest of the class smoothly… This time around, it really seemed to work well. Not only did we avoid a tantrum (which had happened the previous week, when there were only two teachers available), we actually applied some of the lessons of Ruhi Book 3 and gave preference to the children who were showing patience and politeness. We had to do it several times, but it worked! I’m sure we’ll have to repeat the exercise in coming weeks, but it was a genuine thrill to know that yes, when you put your heads together, the lessons we’ve learned in our training actually do bear fruit!