Getting students out of the classroom and into the kitchen

For young people who have social issues, Autism Spectrum Disorder or have struggled with the traditional school environment, getting excited about and engaging in study or work can be extremely difficult. But for eight young people studying a Certificate II in Community Services Work through The Australian Institute of Social Relations, spending some time in the kitchen has been just the confidence boost they needed.

The students are studying the qualification as part of the Relationship and Values Education (RAVE) program run through Relationships Australia (SA). As part of their studies, the students have had the opportunity to undertake two elective cookery units, getting them out of the classroom and into the kitchen.

Jo Zeitz, Manager of Child and Youth Case Management at Relationships Australia (SA), said that many of these students had previously not had an opportunity to study or had found it difficult to engage in traditional education.

“There are a lot of academic programs out there but not many that teach life skills such as budgeting, cooking, cleaning, catching public transport and developing social skills,” Jo said.

“By offering these students a different way to learn and engage, we’ve not only helped them to develop these essential life skills but also given them something productive to do and a pathway into future study or work.”

Paul Herbig, educator and VET Coordinator at the Institute, said that the most rewarding part about teaching the students has been seeing how they have improved over the 6 weeks.

“When the students first started with us, many found it difficult to pay attention, engage in the cooking activities or even communicate with the staff and other students. Some also talked about feeling worthless or even imprisoned in their own home with nothing to do,” Paul said.

“However, as the weeks have progressed, these young people have come out of their shells and built the confidence to try new things. Most importantly, they feel a sense of purpose and achievement, are enjoying what they’re doing and are opening their minds to their potential and the opportunities that are out there.”

The students meet weekly at the Blackwood Church of Christ, who have been incredibly supportive of the program.

“The Church has been great to work with and we’re currently in talks with them about running a café from the premises, which would be fantastic,” Jo said.

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