Driving through South Dakota thinking about it I decided I wasn’t happy with the results of my class. Many of the residents engaged but not at the level I wanted.
When we got back in town I resumed “teaching” the cooking class but with a twist. For two weeks I took them in a picture and told them a story about it. Then we “cooked” something that tied in with the photo. To my amazement the residents really started to engage a lot more. They started telling me stories, I told them stories, everyone (including me) started laughing and talking a whole lot more than when I was following the manual I was given at the beginning of this endeavor. And the class size grew.
After my two week trial I decided it was time to come clean. I went in and met with activity director and told him what I had been doing and the ‘manual’ wasn’t working for me and if need be I could find another place to volunteer. He smiled, took the manual and threw it on his desk. He told me he had had heard more laughter and chatter coming from the activity room during cooking class than any other time during the week. He also told me my pictures and recipes had become prized possessions of many of the residents. He told me about a guy that went down to the kitchen and told the cooks, “If you have a chance you should go to Ralph’s cooking class.” Then he told me what I wanted to hear – make it work for you and the residents.
Later that day I called a friend and told him what I had done. He replied, “Well, Ralph, if you think about it the farthest some of those people have been in a long time is from their room to the dining hall. You’re taking them on field trips.”
Today, I went to the nursing home and posted a picture of yesterday's class on the bulletin board. These pictures are also becoming a big hit. I got in the elevator with one of my “assistance's” and she remarked my class was really growing and becoming more and more popular. I told her it was the pictures. She then said, “It’s the pictures, it’s the food, it’s the stories, and it’s the fact that you take them on mental field trips getting them out of this place.”
There it was again, the words field trips.
So far we have been to Mount Rushmore, DeSmit, South Dakota, and a rodeo in Nebraska. I can hardly wait to take them to Palisade where we’re going to pick peaches.