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Family, consumer science classes teach variety of skills

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In one family and consumer science class, students learn how to cook nutritional meals that will help them prevent diseases such as diabetes.

Family and consumer science classes have evolved from the 1950s goal of teaching young women how to cook and sew.

Now, students learn the skills that they will need for the rest of their lives, students and educators said.

One class will teach them how to read a recipe and the value of nutritious foods. Other classes teach them what goes into building and furnishing a house.

Students can take a family and consumer science class to learn how to sew or decorate a cake. Resume building and job interviewing is another class subject.

“We’re more focused on the end results of sending these kids out in the world,” said Barbara Torrey, a teacher at Franklin Community High School. “Everything we teach is something they will use as soon as they get out of here.”

Family and consumer science classes aren’t required to graduate high school, although a combination of them can replace a health class.

But students are still carving out time in their high school schedule to take them.

Enrollment in high school classes has stayed steady in the 17 years Torrey has taught them. An advanced textile class that teaches students to sew bags and clothing is crowded, she said.

Some students have made the classes an extracurricular activity and earned awards at a statewide contest that judges the skills learned in the classes.

Torrey credits the popularity of the classes on teens wanting basic life skills, such as how to cook from a recipe or interview for a job.

“So many of them aren’t getting this at home anymore,” she said.

In many cases, both parents work, limiting time that they themselves have for skills such as cooking and sewing, let alone teaching their child those skills, Torrey said.

Sophomore Tiffany Taylor takes family and consumer science classes because she wanted to learn how to sew, but her grandmother is too ill to teach her, she said.

Taylor also wanted to learn how to cook for herself after she moved away from home.

“You are going to have to eat to survive; you have to learn how to cook,” she said.

Curriculum in all of the classes haven’t changed, Torrey said.

Students still learn the basics, such as how to read a recipe while whipping up muffins. But now, students also learn how to eat healthy, she said.

For example, she tells classes how their eating habits affect some long-term diseases, such as diabetes, Torrey said.

“The whole society is focused on wellness,” she said. “I tell students they want to stay well.”

More diverse classes are offered now than just a few decades ago, Torrey said.

Students can take at least three separate classes in nutrition and sewing. They also have their choice of child development classes or housing classes.

“There are more classes,” she said. “It is no longer just cooking and sewing.”

Those classes are getting more in depth. A housing class will teach students how to decorate their homes in paint and patterns.

They also cover how a house is built and what is behind the walls they are decorating, Torrey said.

“It’s becoming more technical than just how to paint a room,” she said.

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