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More than just a kitchen

Profile image for By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer
By Britney Tabor / Staff Writer

Crownover life skills class debuts new learning area built by Team Depot

CORINTH — A space once occupied by a whiteboard in a life skills classroom at Crowonver Middle School was recently redeveloped into a kitchen.

On Monday, the life skills class had a “housewarming,” celebrating and debuting the addition of a 12-foot functioning kitchen to its classroom. The space is equipped with an electric stove and an oven, a stainless-steel double sink, dishwasher, a compact refrigerator, a laminate countertop, office shelves and maple cabinets.

The kitchen was built last month by volunteers from Team Depot, a volunteer arm of the Home Depot Foundation in which store associates and suppliers participate in community service projects that benefit veterans, schools and nonprofit organizations.

Students who once cooked on hotplates and in microwaves and washed dishes in the Crownover faculty lounge now have their own space to prepare meals, wash dishes and stack dishes in cabinets, school officials said. The life skills class at Crownover is designated for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students with cognitive disabilities, and in addition to their core subjects, students are taught living, personal, social and occupational skills, such as cooking.

“Before, we could only cook on Friday because of the time constraints. Now we have more opportunities to practice,” life skills teacher Julie Davidson said. “A lot of our students have a hard time even buttering bread.

“They have an added sense of self-respect because they’re learning things they’re going to carry through life.”

Eighth-grader Victor Caballero said he’s preparing things like cinnamon toast in the new kitchen and washing dishes.

“I like it,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”

Monday, students used the kitchen to prepare a fruit salad and other hors d’oeuvres for their “housewarming” guests.

Shannon Richardson, a life skills aide at Crownover, said having a kitchen makes the cooking process more realistic for students and they no longer have to pretend they have a kitchen.

“It will be easier for them to apply what they learn here at home,” she said. “We’re able to cook more often, a larger variety of things. The amount that they’re able to learn now compared to then is astounding.

“Things we weren’t able to teach them before in our makeshift kitchen, we’re able to do now in our kitchen Home Depot made for us.”

Planning for the kitchen began about six months ago, said Maryanna Sobstad, kitchen and bath project designer for the Home Depot in Denton. She said she met with Davidson to learn the needs of her class.

Richardson, who worked for the Home Depot three years prior to joining the Crownover staff, knew of the projects the company did for the community and reached out to the local store for the project. She had participated in some Team Depot projects.

Ten volunteers with Team Depot, ranging in age from 23 to 84, spent more than 10 hours on April 15 constructing the life skills kitchen, Sobstad said. The kitchen, appliances included, without labor cost about $2,000, she said.

According to the Home Depot Foundation website, Team Depot completed 1,200 projects across the United States in 2012.

Prior to getting started, the school district installed additional electrical outlets on the wall and plumbing that connects to the faculty lounge behind the life skills classroom, school officials said.

Students were fascinated as they watched volunteers build the kitchen, Davidson said, and asked if they could use it to make cookies and pizza.

The class christened the kitchen by baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies in its new oven, Davidson said.

In recent weeks, Davidson said, the kitchen has been used for lessons on placing and removing items from the oven, rinsing dishes and placing them in the dishwasher, unloading a dishwasher, neatly stacking dishes in cabinets, putting away groceries and wiping cabinets off when cooking to kill germs. She said students also integrate reading skills while following recipes and math in determining the fractions or measurements needed for a particular recipe.

“My goal for the students is for them to be independent and do as many things on their own as they can, and so if we’re able to practice that here, it just builds their self-esteem,” Davidson said.

“It is a blessing for the current students, but it will benefit students for years to come.”

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.