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GPS students learn to navigate life and much more in popular elective course

Gold celebrating the best of GPS


Laurie Doran-Frederick stands outside her classroom at Greenfield Junior High School in Gilbert.


It is one of the most popular classes at Greenfield Junior High School. While it is not one of the core classes, the Family and Consumer Sciences/Life Skills course encompasses all of the different content areas. Laurie Doran-Frederick has been teaching the elective course for more than a decade.

“I like coming to work. I enjoy seeing them. I always tell them at the beginning that they are my kids until they go off to high school,” Doran-Frederick said.

The elective course teaches students about the culinary arts, nutrition, child development, the workforce, economics, entrepreneurship, automotive mechanics, clothing and design. If you ask her, Doran-Frederick says she doesn’t have a favorite lesson to teach, but she does enjoy hearing her students talk about how they incorporate what she’s taught them into their lives at home. The students in the class really enjoy Cupcake Wars.

“It’s gotten bigger and better as time has gone on,” she said.

The annual event happens after students spend 11 weeks learning about basic cooking and baking methods. They are divided into more than a dozen teams each assigned with the task of coming up with a theme, cupcake flavor, display, and presentation. 

“It’s stressful and time consuming, but the kids learn a lot from it,” she said.

Team members work together to make 48 standard-sized cupcakes and 24 miniature cupcakes for the competition. As a result, students learn how to collaborate, problem-solve, effectively share ideas, manage their time, execute a project, and much more. Principal Brian Yee says it’s an assignment that students will remember for years to come.

"We have students come back and this is one of the events that they always remember or like to talk about, because of the different experiences they went through," Yee said.

Students are able to see their work progress from concept to completion, which is something Doran-Frederick says they take great pride in doing. The project also prepares students for the workforce, because teams are randomly chosen and some of the students are working together for the first time ever. It requires them to learn how to navigate different personalities and perspectives. 

“I think that’s my biggest thing is for kids to be able to work with others that they normally wouldn’t or wouldn’t know,” Doran-Frederick said.

Principal Brian Yee shakes hands with a student at the 2019 Cupcake Wars at Greenfield Junior High School.Principal Brian Yee credits Doran-Frederick’s leadership and teaching to the success of the course at the school. He believes students are connecting with the course, because it allows them to take ownership in their learning. 

“She supports them, but she also doesn't hold their hand through it all. She lets them live and learn from their experiences. Sometimes it works out great. Sometimes it doesn't, but she is there regardless to support them,” Yee said.

To learn more about courses offered at our Junior High Schools, check out our list of course descriptions!

Written by Kailey Latham