The term "home ec" is so outmoded, but that's what seventh- and eighth-graders at Escalante Middle School who chose the foods class elective taught by Jan Tuchscherer were involved in Thursday morning.
They were learning to decorate cupcakes under the eye of Heather Hinsley, proprietor of Cake Café, a Durango pastry catering business.
Tuchscherer is a family and consumer-sciences teacher whose foods class is one of several trimester-long exploratory options offered mostly to seventh- and eighth-graders. Sixth-graders get a smattering of food-oriented instruction in Tuchscherer's healthy lifestyles class.
"I was pleasantly surprised because my demonstration was received equally well by boys and girls," Hinsley said. "They were all very engaged."
A couple of students showed a natural talent for decorating, Hinsley said.
"They were very uninhibited," she said. "They jumped right in and didn't have to ask 'How do you do this?'"
Hinsley is one of many locals whom Tuchscherer invites to the classroom to share their expertise with students. Among others who have talked about food-related topics are Dan James of the James Ranch of grass-fed beef fame; Jim Dyer from the Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado, which introduces youngsters to the world of agriculture and provides salad greens in school cafeterias; and Dr. Marje Cristol, a family physician who makes goat-milk cheese commercially.
Escalante got the kitchen where Tuchscherer teaches cooking and a wood shop out of a bond issue approved by voters several years ago, school secretary Sharee Erickson said.
Tuchscherer's list of electives includes sewing, creative crafts, healthy lifestyles and life survival skills as well as cooking. In cooking, students make egg, fruit and bread dishes.
The cooking class today will be making taco quiche - a dish home ec students almost certainly never heard of.