What is in a simple slice of bread? At Raintree, it is packed with growth, learning, and connection. Bread Day is the standing Thursday snack tradition at Raintree. This weekly activity intersects many of our strongest school values: hands-on learning, citizenship and care for our community, celebration of local and seasonal ingredients, and exploration of diversity in cuisines and cultures.
Our tradition starts with a simple bread machine recipe that allows even the youngest Raintree friends to contribute to feeding their school. Each class takes a monthly turn to make the bread, and it is a ritual that will follow students all the way through their Raintree years. For Nursery, it is a sensory and motor skill experience in seeing, smelling, and scooping the ingredients. In Preschool, students master measurement techniques and counting and learn to help cleanup. PreKers look forward to experimenting with each new weekly flavor and are very curious about cause and effect when ingredients in the recipe are tweaked. By Kindergarten, students are experts at reading and following the recipe completely on their own, as well as working together and cleaning up their work space. No matter the age, every class is excited and proud as the smell of their baking bread fills the dining room and drifts onto the playscape.
Bread Day also prompts celebration of ingredients and seasons. As the weather turns, so does the toppings and flavors of our bread. Pumpkin butter is an old favorite of our Fall season, citrus fruit and cranberries feature heavily in the Winter, the Spring prompts a flush of fresh greens and herbs, and every Summer students bring ripe tomatoes and basil in from the garden. Many of our seasonal ingredients are locally sourced from small farms in Missouri and Illinois. The star of the show, the flour, is organically and lovingly grown and milled at Janie's Farm in Ashkum, Il.
While we celebrate our local agriculture, Bread Day also allows us to explore the wide world of bread, and how countless variations are made in different countries. Each baking session, we read the book Bread, Bread, Bread by Ann Morris, which shows students the diversity in types of bread all over the world and the different ways people bake and eat it. Raintree families have even occasionally shared their own traditional bread recipes; such as Mast-o-Khiar (Persian yogurt and cucumber dip) with Noon (flatbread), and Guatemalan champurradas, a crisp pastry, traditionally dipped in hot cocoa.
Such a simple recipe can give us so much! With a few basic ingredients and a bit of intention, Bread Day has a special way of creating community at Raintree.