The scent of chocolate wafted down the corridors of Sykesville Middle School.
Student bakers were mixing multiple batches of brownies, filling four ovens in the home economics classroom Friday afternoon.
"We are making a ton, a least seven boxes," said Mike Rabinovitz, 12, stirring batter furiously. "There is nothing to this -- a little eggs and water. I do this at home all the time."
Those "tons of brownies" made their way to tables at the Saturday soup kitchen in Westminster.
The first Saturday of every month, Sykesville Middle students travel to Westminster with their teachers and serve lunch to the homeless and needy. They cook most of what they serve, too.
Last week, brownies and sloppy Joes topped the menu. The ground beef was donated by Westminster Church of the Brethren, where the free meals are served.
"We do all the cooking here on Friday," said teacher Margie Ader. "All we have to do Saturday is heat and serve."
The school kitchen was organized pandemonium as 15 seventh-grade students in long white aprons and white chef hats cooked for 50.
"Is this an aluminum pan?" asked Tyra Bright, 13, to a roomful of children. "I have to have aluminum. And get me another spoon. I'm all chocolatey."
"The recipe calls for flaked coconut and we don't have any," said Rachel Scarborough, 13, frantically. "No, wait. That's just an option."
Rachel admitted she had little culinary experience.
"I would rather use a blender than a wooden spoon," she said.
She decided cooking for 50 was fun, as she measured oil under Tyra's careful eye.
"This is easy for me," said Tyra. "I make homemade brownies all the time. I never use a mix."
At a nearby cooking station, Mike was about to pour the batter into the pan. His classmate Joe Shaffer yelled, "Wait, Mike, grease the pan!"
Without a friendly reminder, other bakers were headed for stuck-in-the-pan brownies, said Tyra.
The children donated the brownie mix -- Betty Crocker Fudge is the most popular, said Rachel -- and cans of Manwich for the ground beef.
Tyrese Rice, 13, led the stove crew.
"Brown the beef, add the sauce, stir and let simmer," she said. "I cook a lot at home."
Tyrese said she looked forward to serving what she cooked but worried about talking to people at the soup kitchen.
"I am kind of shy," she said.
Her teacher, Lisa Schrodel, said many students feel an initial shyness, but she encourages them to mingle. "The chitchat afterwards, that's the hard part for the kids," she said.
Most are chatting happily with diners by the time lunch is over, she said. Several eighth-grade students -- veterans at soup kitchen service -- agreed.
"We all felt a little awkward at first," said Kate Blatchford, 14. "But, it just shows you the homeless are everywhere, not just in big cities."
"We are just afraid we might say something to make them feel bad," said Tracy Basford, 13. "When you are done, you feel good because you have helped somebody."
Eighth-grader Susan Morey, 13, felt so good she volunteered to help again with the seventh-grade group.
Jen Stange, 13, said the experience "makes you feel grateful for things you have. These people are just unlucky."
Just as the final bell rang, Ms. Schrodel tested the batter for doneness.
"Don't forget our brownies, too," said Mike and Joe as they raced out of the classroom.
"Some ungreased pans and some on the wrong oven rack, but they did it all themselves," Ms. Schrodel said.