Auburn school teacher Bill Murray has been posting videos called “5 Minutes of Kitchen Science with Mr. Murray” for students. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — How many chocolate chips are you suppose to add when making chocolate chip pancakes ?

Auburn school teacher Bill Murray mixes ingredients for chocolate chip pancakes in the video he made for students. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The answer: “Too many,” Auburn elementary school teacher Bill Murray said.

Welcome to “Five Minutes of Kitchen Science with Mr. Murray.”

When Auburn schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the fifth-grade teacher at Sherwood Heights Elementary School was at a loss.

“I lost the camaraderie of 400 kids and 60 staff members in two days,” Murray said.

He wasn’t alone. Teachers across Maine were forced to learn new ways to connect with their students. Gone were hugs, high-fives and eye contact. Introduced overnight was distance learning, remote learning, Facetime, Zoom, whatever anyone wishes to call it.

Murray calls it “emergency learning.”

Auburn school teacher Bill Murray uses an iPad to make a video on how to make chocolate chip pancakes from scratch in his Auburn kitchen. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I was having a stellar year,” he said. “I had classroom management under control. I was connecting with kids that others could not. And then the rug was pulled out from under me.

“But, it did not just happen to me. It happened to all of us,” Murray said of teachers he used to pass in the hallway almost daily.

“I could not get any traction at first,” he said about teaching from a distance. “I went to webinar after webinar looking for stable ground to start something.”

Murray is known at Sherwood for being a hands-on kind of teacher. His students go from classroom to classroom collecting compost, they plant potatoes in the school gardens and raise the flag each morning.

Throughout the pandemic, Murray has not missed a hands-on beat. His students have learned how to make a lava lamp, make peanut butter and jelly French toast, practiced card tricks, make chocolate chip pancakes and learned the importance of “universal precautions” such as washing hands.

All were taught through short videos he created either from his kitchen or living room.

“I call it Five Minutes of Kitchen Science with Mr. Murray,” he said.

“I like to keep them short,” he said. “Anything more than five minutes, you lose them. It’s just like the classroom.

The videos have nothing to do with learning targets and curriculum, Murray said. “It’s just an attempt to engage kids.”

During a Zoom meeting with his students, Murray noticed a common thread in how students were learning to cook while spending so much time at home. That inspired him to introduce new recipes

Peanut butter and jelly French toast anyone?

“My little brother didn’t like it that much, but I can’t wait to have it again,” one student wrote in the video comment section.

How about chocolate chip pancakes made from scratch ? That was dinner every Wednesday when Murray’s daughters Molly and Calli were growing up. “It’s the same recipe that I taught my own two daughters,” he said.

Auburn school teacher Bill Murray washes his hands before filming the fifth episode of “5 Minutes of Kitchen Science with Mr. Murray.” Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“Hopefully good things will come out of this,” he said. “Hopefully kids will be able to cook French toast, connect with nature and treat their pets well. Now is a good time to teach those things.”

“I don’t want to be that teacher that kids talk about how boring you were,” Murray said.

Murray said he and other teachers often question themselves about how they are doing teaching from a distance.

“Are we making a connection? You have to have that connection piece,” Murray emphasized.

“I’m not a tech guy. I’m a relationship type of teacher. My goal is to connect and to support,” he said.

“I’ve had feelings that I have never had before,” Murray said. “I’m having to take care of Bill and teach Bill how to do what Bill doesn’t know how to do.”

During one of his daily walks through the neighborhood, Murray heard “Mr. Murray. I made a lava lamp.”

He recognized Josh Hill, one of his fifth graders. Hill must have watched the first episode.

“That’s what makes me tick,” Murray said.


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