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Sweets pave the way to reading

The Baltimore Sun

Ashley Arnold's favorite childhood book, The Best Nest, immediately came to mind when she was assigned to re-creating a gingerbread-house-like scene for her culinary arts class.

The Wilde Lake High School sophomore knew it would be difficult to replicate the tall white church and steeple using dry cereal, candy and frosting, but she was up for the challenge. The 15-year-old wanted to share with elementary school students the P.D. Eastman story about two birds making a new home near a church bell. The creation is part of a classroom project the students later share with elementary students as a way to encourage them to become avid readers.

"I wanted to introduce it to other children," Arnold said of the story. "I wanted to get them interested in reading."

Arnold is one of 104 students in Yvonne Lund's classes at the Columbia school who have been working for weeks to perfect their edible creations. For the past seven years, Lund's students have used food to make replicas of scenes from children's books as a way for her students to encourage the younger set to read.

The annual program brings together the high-schoolers and children from Bryant Woods Elementary to discuss the books that inspired some select creations. That collaboration, which took place this month, provides a chance for Lund's students to showcase their culinary talents while stressing an appreciation for reading and high school.

"Their main objective is to get them jazzed about reading the books," said Lund, a teacher for family and consumer science and director of the school's Culinary Academy.

This year, Lund added a new twist, deciding to sell the creations during a silent auction to help recoup some of the costs of materials for the project. The auction also allows parents, teachers and students who made the creations to purchase the projects, which have typically been thrown out after the visit by the elementary students.

"Food prices have doubled," she said. "Basically, this is going to give us the money to get them into the kitchen more."

The auction was scheduled to be held at the school Thursday night, with starting bid for each piece set at $5.

"A lot of staff members want them for centerpieces for Christmas," Lund said.

Andy Dam suspects that his parents probably would try to purchase his creation, which is a replica of a scene from a book based on the popular TV cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

"Knowing them, they probably will," he said of his parents.

The 16-year-old said he chose the scene because he knew it would strike a chord with the elementary school students.

"I thought it would be appealing to children," the junior said. "I know a lot of children like SpongeBob."

Lund said the project is one of those not-so-common school activities that manage to pull off the elusive combination of having educational value while being fun for all the students involved.

"It covers all the things that they need to cover - creativity, working with their hands, working with books," she said. "It's just a really, really good thing. They take off with it. You can't stop them. They want it perfect."

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