Life Skills Series Teaches What Classroom Learning Doesn’t

Whitman College is a place where students learn all kinds of things. The vast majority of this knowledge, however, is academic and is attained in the classroom; we sit at desks and learn how to calculate parabolic trajectories, how to define gender theory or the history of politics in western Europe.

Bon Appetit chef taught two Life Skills classes about pizza-making this semester.  Photos by Devika Doowa.

Bon Appétit Executive Chef Jim Cooley taught two Life Skills classes about pizza making this semester, including this event held in the Prentiss kitchen Thursday, Feb. 28. Photos by Devika Doowa.

But where do we learn basic life skills, that non-academic knowledge that may not help us ace our MCAT but will help us survive in our modern society? How will those of us without cooking skills survive living on our own? What if we get a flat tire, and our parents never bothered to catch us up on our mechanical skills? There must be a venue for Whitties to learn these important skills. This is a liberal arts school, after all!

The answer lies with the Life Skills Series, a group of classes offered by Whitman College Student Activities. Recent additions to the lineup included a course on pizza making taught by Bon Appétit’s Executive Chef Jim Cooley, an afternoon of car repair lessons with employees of the local Les Schwab and even a class on planning epic road trips.

Katharine Curles, assistant director of student activities, said in an email interview that the main reason for the birth of the Life Skills Series was a realization that a program teaching basic life skills could “fill a void in hands-on learning that many students feel.”

Not surprisingly, Curles cited food-related classes as the most popular among Whitman students, especially classes on cheese and chocolate appreciation.

“My goals are twofold: to give students and staff a chance to cooperate and relate outside of the formal office setting, and to teach students real ‘life skills’ that they can use after Whitman,” said Curles. “Plus, a tertiary goal is to just give students a quality study break, something out of the norm of their everyday lives.”

Students are attracted to the classes because of their practicality.

“I get to eat great food and learn a lot, all for free!” sophomore Corinne Vandagriff said. “I took sushi making and Thai food. So I learned to cook food that I often go to restaurants to eat instead.”

Upcoming classes in April include Gleaning, Birding, The Art of a Grilled Cheese and Budgeting. Classes on building a perfect first aid kit and off-campus living strategies are also being considered. In order to be notified about Life Skills classes as soon as possible, send a blank email to lifeskills-subscribe@lists.whitman.edu and subscribe to the listserv. You can also sign up for upcoming classes on the Student Activities Office Facebook page.

Bon Appetit chef taught two Life Skills classes about pizza-making this semester. Photos by Devika Doowa.




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