When asked what they wanted in a community center on the Eastside of Tacoma, one of the things the community clearly wanted was a teaching kitchen.
Taking a page from the Zina Linnik project, we asked the kids how the kitchen should be designed. Our “From the Ground Up” educational partnership provides an opportunity for our youngest citizens, with the help and mentorship from higher education students and local professionals in the field, to come together to design specific spaces for Tacoma’s new community & aquatics center on the Eastside.
Students participated from local schools throughout Tacoma’s Eastside - many of whom also attend the Eastside Boys & Girls Club, the organization that volunteered to host the learning project. The youth have been meeting once a week to learn about different types of food, cultures and kitchens. On field trips to Clover Park Technical College’s School of Culinary Arts, they toured the campus teaching and commercial kitchen and full service restaurant. Students from the Culinary Arts program prepared beignets and sushi for the students. For most, it was the first time they had ever had either of these dishes!
Returning to the Eastside Boys & Girls Club, the younger students went to work on creating their designs. Working in small groups and a variety of mediums, they developed their vision for the teaching kitchen at the Eastside community center. Some took to sketch drawing, some used 3D miniature models, others used appliance boxes to layout their designs on the floor, and a few used…marshmallows (though more marshmallows may have been eaten then used in the designs).
On their 2nd week of building their designs, Congressman Denny Heck, State Representative Jake Fey, Metro Parks Commissioner Jessie Baines, and Tacoma Public School Board member Catherine Ushka visited the Imagine Eastside kitchen design project. After a briefing for the Congressman, everyone joined the students while they worked on the kitchen designs.
Each of the teams had a chance describe their designs and what they felt was important about them - including one student who felt the heart she drew on her design was its most important feature.
Students then got to ask questions of the adults who were visiting them. One student, Gigi, asked if the adults have fun in their work, and each one went around the room to say what is fun about their work. A good reminder for us to stay focused on what is important!
One young man, Branton, asked Congressman Heck if he had ever met the President. The following conversation ensued: Congressman Heck: “Yes, I have.”, Branton: “The President of the United States?”, Congressman Heck: “Yes, many times”, Branton: “You need to tell the President to come here.” At the end of the session the Congressman pulled out his phone and showed Branton a video of the Congressman asking the President to support one of his bills in Congress. Branton was glued to the video the whole time and when it was over Branton said “Remember to tell the President to come here - the President of the United States.”
Once their designs are complete, the students will take another field trip. This time, the trip is to the University of Puget Sound to meet with Communications students there. Together, they will develop their talking points and learn public speaking tips in preparation for their presentations to the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners on April 25th.