SLIDESHOW: MSHS students get festive with gingerbread

When the sweet smell of gingerbread wafts through the halls of Mount Si High School, you'd think it might lead you to Santa's workshop.

But follow the warm scent into Laura Tarp's sixth-period Creative Cooking class, and you'll be surprised to see her busy elves working on their annual gingerbread house projects.

A lesson she's been teaching for about ten years now, the fun holiday activity serves as a winter project for groups of four to six students who work on together on a final semester project.

Teaching multiple classes along with Elaine-Marie Berg, the two teachers have worn the gears out on at least one Kitchenaid mixer so far.

Going through more than eight gallons of molasses this semester, Tarp said building the houses is all about trial and error.

"They take pictures of this, write an essay about working in a group," Tarp said. Group work is challenging, "because it's hard to decide what you're going to put on your gingerbread house," she said.

Building everything from scratch, students learn about how heavy a roof should be, the easiest way to decorate a house, how dense their gingerbread should be and how thick they should make their frosting.

Watching a few videos on how they can build their houses, Tarp said she tells them what she knows from experience.

"It's a lot better to decorate (a wall) while it's down, let it dry and then bring it up," she said. "Laffy Taffy and other types of candy don't work. It may look great at first, but a few days later, it starts melting, bubbling and sliding."

Tarp's favorite part about the whole process is seeing the creativity in her students.

Steering clear of the Christmas theme, some students were in the process of creating a house that is being hit by an avalanche.

"My favorite part is probably putting together the house, because we get to use candy and make lots of frosting," said Shayla Volland, a sophomore in Tarp's sixth-period class. "You should always make sure all the pieces are precise."

Graded on class participation and the cleanliness of their kitchens, Tarp said all houses would be done in a week.

She will then place them in different windows around the school and will put them up for the Festival of Arts next year, where they will be judged by people in the bakery industry.

"I'm amazed at how creative kids get," Tarp said.

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