Summer school enrichment course aims to be well-rounded

Never has so much poop talk slid by in Hannibal Middle School as it did Wednesday morning.

But it’s not what you think. Students participating in the Hannibal Public School District’s summer school decorated their own cupcakes in the form of emojis — smilies, crying faces, and yes, poop emojis — as part of a first-time program that combined baking and its real-world application. The baking course was part of the school’s summer enrichment camp.

Long gone are the days when summer school is thought of as a punishment for receiving poor grades. For example, pastry chef Emily Inman, owner of Huckleberry Bakery and Bistro in Hannibal, demonstrated to students how to shape fondant into decorations to put on top of their emoji-themed treats. The students caught on quickly, adapting standard emojis — small graphics used in texts or other messages to convey emotion — into their own creations.

Inman remembered seeing cyclops emoji cupcakes, and course leader Stacey Mueller — a sixth grade English teacher — said some students created Pac-Man cupcakes, unicorn-themed treats, and even an “I’m poisoned” emoji cupcake.

“Watching her (Inman) has sparked some creativity in the kids,” Mueller said.

It’s no secret that the students had plenty of fun, laughing and talking as they spread icing over a pre-baked cake as the base of the creation.

“Do I have frosting on my face?” asked eighth grader Alexis Elliott to her friend Kyla Barnard.

But despite plenty of smiles in the HMS cafeteria, the course is far more than poop emojis and icing.

The baking class has taught basic kitchen skills, from how to safely use a stove to understanding units of measurement. Mueller said the course aims to be well-rounded.

“They’re good life skills for the kids to learn,” she said.

Mueller explained the course also explored different cultures that culminated in baking four traditionally-significant cookies from various parts of the world, including China, Mexico, Sweden and Italy.

Reign Creech, a seventh grader, explained how to make a thumbprint cookie filled with jam, a cookie popular with Italians.

His favorite part of the class is “either making the food and experimenting with different ingredients...” “Or eating it,” he said after a slight pause.

It was important to get Inman, a Hannibal native, involved in the course, according to Mueller.

“She has pride in giving back to the community. And she’s a face that they will see. They get to see how learning these skills can turn into a long-term career,” Mueller said.

Inman said she thought she’d need to give more personalized attention to each students, but was surprised to see how eager the students were.

“It’s great, because they’re happy with their creations and no one is saying ‘mine is better than yours’ and they’ve done something they’ve never done before,” she said. “A lot of kids haven’t made stuff from scratch before. I want kids to know how easy it is to make things from scratch that’s without preservatives or all this extra stuff.”

At the end of the class Wednesday, the group of roughly 30 kids each posed with two cupcakes they decorated, representing their creativity — and who knows, perhaps a burgeoning career.

“I think it’s given them some opportunities to explore a talent that they maybe didn’t know they have,” Mueller said.

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