Cooking classes connect families, community at Brandon's Betty Gibson School
Students have explored cuisine from several of the 17 different countries represented at the school
From the outside, Brandon's Betty Gibson School looks like any other. There's a gym, a play structure, lots of classrooms.
But take a walk through the front doors, and you'll find a multicultural world with students from nearly every continent inside — something a new cooking class at the school celebrates by bringing together students, and their parents, who come from across the globe.
"We have students from about 17 countries" at the kindergarten to Grade 8 school, said principal Blaine Aston.
Aside from students born and raised in Canada, Aston said some of the 315 students at the school in the southwestern Manitoba city come from countries like Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, China, Ukraine, Syria, Sudan and Ethiopia, just to name a few.
Aston said while the school tries to give newcomer kids a "Canadian experience" at school, different cultures and countries are also prominently celebrated and featured in school programming.
Cooking class celebrates diversity
Part of that celebration is the new community cooking class, started this year by the school's parent council as a way for parents and students to meet and connect with each other.
"I didn't realize how diverse the community was here at the school," said Ashley Sadler, president of the parent council.
Families and students get together and learn how to prepare the meal and then enjoy it together, all while learning about where the participants have come from and how they ended up in Brandon.
Attendance was low to start, but Sadler said as many as 17 parents and children have taken part in recent weeks.
"It's been amazing. It's been really nice to hear conversations and hear about everyone's backgrounds," she said. "We've had a lot of good feedback from the attendees so far."
Glenda Halkett and her two kids, ages five and eight, have been regulars at the classes.
"I'm open to trying new things all the time," said Halkett, who is originally from Brochet, Man., a tiny community in northern Manitoba. "When I first brought them here, it was really different for them."
But now, "they enjoy it. They have friends from different cultures and stuff."
Sadler said a grant from the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation helps purchase food and supplies for the after-school class, which typically lasts a couple of hours and takes place in a multipurpose room at the school.
"With a group like this and having a room that's half a classroom, the kids can come and play while the adults cook," said Sadler.
She said the group will pause for spring break, but will be back up and running after that. Her hope is to one day cook dishes from every country represented at the school.
"I can only see it growing from here on out," she said.
Urban Myths is a CBC series that explores Manitoba communities and their sometimes surprising stories.
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