Oota Thota is developed with the intent of using cooking creatively, to enable the children to explore and build culinary skills. It has evolved as Snehadhara’s flagship project by looking at engagements within community spaces, fostering social skills as well as creating opportunities leading to livelihoods.
Cook with the Kids, Make a Mess !
To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi
Oota Thota is our classroom in the kitchen. It is an arena of multiple learning possibilities. It harbours the potential for independence and social interaction. Skill based knowledge-motor skills, math, science and language all grow within this creative space.
The beginnings of Oota Thota (2015 onwards) focussed on developing basic functioning skills as well as connecting with community spaces. For the former, a space was created for a group of children to contribute to the overnighters by cooking dinner at the centre. The senior boys group took up the onus and started shopping for vegetables at Hopcoms every week. In the process they could explore learning language, math sorting and categorizing, learning step by step and first-next-last concepts. In addition to this, as an endeavour towards encouraging socialization and communication within community spaces, we took the children to The Millet Cafe and Zhang’s restaurant for kitchen and customer support.
Lick the Spoon, Have Fun !
“Cooking is love made visible”
…come share the love every Tuesday…
Highlights of the Program
To promote inclusive spaces and awareness of learning diversities.
To encourage socialization, communication, and the development of leisure activities.
To develop social dynamics that involves turn taking, lead and follow and attention skills.
To offer a child with special needs a multisensory experience (smell, taste, touch, sight), a medium to develop basic independent functioning skills, to develop fine and gross motor skills.
To explore learning language and math using “use your words” to describe products, sorting and categorizing them, learning step by step and first-next-last concepts.
To encourage children with needs to experience outdoor spaces, beyond their homes and learning centers thus exploring possibilities of employment with established cafes/ restaurants/ supermarkets.
The Cafe group of last year continues with its weekly enterprise of providing us with delicious goodies however their focus shifts to fine tuning their kitchen skills. They hone their fine motor capabilities and as they chop, peel, cut, slice they do so with a dexterity that leads to independence in the kitchen. The focus is a more entrenched relationship with the tool and the process.
The other groups get ready to don the mantle of the cafe in the future. They are set upon the path to familiarise themselves with the kitchen, its tools and implements, their purpose, the process to use them and finally to pick up the skills in a deeper more concerted manner that leads to understanding of how a dish is prepared.
Oota Thota this year is about the behind the scenes action, the smaller bits that create a whole, the importance of working on each part that combines to create the final product.
Sometimes the most ordinary things become extraordinary by doing them together. ‘Dhoop Dhamal’, the summer school program 2017-2018 paved the way for a different experience in the culinary world for our children. They cooked together, they served together, they powered their creativity and gave a kick start to the cafe ‘Obattoo’.
Thus our ‘learning in the kitchen’ program evolved into Cafe Obattoo, a weekly venture that enabled the children to give us a wide variety of cuisines from vaadams, papads, laddoos and cutlets to parathas, chaats, doughnuts, idiyappams, momos etc. as the skills developed.
We started with one group that took it upon itself to create recipes, buy ingredients, learn about pre cooking skills, cook up the dish and also serve it and sell it in the cafe space. Produce was also harvested from the in house garden thus demonstrating the cycle from the land to the table. Through the year the group also showed resilience and endurance through preparing lunch for the team as well as running the cafe on the same day. Built into the narrative were learnings on waste management, cleanliness as well as the concept of Seva Cafe.
This was a lot of action and tremendous insight into the process of how food comes on our plates.