The Way The Cookies Crumbled

Students and Teachers Reflect on Their Cookies Experience


Photo credit: Benjamin Kagan

Students in the Underground Grownish cookie pose for a photo near Wrigley Field.

Cookies are more than just a delicious dessert. It is also the name of a Parker program that was instituted in the spring of 2000. Flora J. Cooke, the namesake for the Cookies courses, was the Principal of Francis W. Parker for its first thirty years. Cooke strongly believed that passionate teachers engage students in a personal and shared experience of learning that stimulates the development of their imaginations, knowledge, skills, and actions.

Inspired by her beliefs, Parker students proposed a program that would take teachers and students out of their regular classes for a few days in the spring term as a way to explore topics of mutual interest. The nature of the topics explored is varied, with some being highly academic, while others are more about physical development, cultural exploration, or social action projects. 

“Cookies is a feature of progressive education where the mission of our school is promoted, learning is done, and people come together and collaborate,” Kevin Conlon, an Upper School teacher and faculty advisor of Cookies, said. “It is a way to draw students in to be do-ers and leaders.” 

Due in part COVID-19, Cookies was unable to happen last year, but the current Curriculum Committee heads were motivated to make Cookies happen this year. “They were very hard-working to get students to put together proposals, and their leadership was key,” Conlon said.

This year, Upper School students participated in Cookies, which took place on May 4 and 5. Cookies ranged from Sculpting and Civic Engagement to AP Calculus Review and Examining Biases. 

“In the AP Calculus Cookie, we drilled time management and got difficult questions that we could use to practice,” said Diana Llamas, a senior and participant in the AP Calculus Review Cookie. “Mr. Tyler was a great teacher because he was so available.”

“We learned a lot about different speech patterns and accents,” Krish Malhotra, a junior and a leader of the Examining Biases Cookie, said. “We were talking about different accents and what makes an accent, which was interesting to learn about.” 

The Civic Engagement Cookie, led by Audrey Fuder and Riya Jain, involved two days of volunteering. The first day was at the Lincoln Park Community Center, a homeless shelter housing around 50 people, where students made lunches to give out to the people in the shelter. The second day was at Cradles to Crayons, an organization dedicated to providing children with the high-quality clothes they deserve, where students sorted and quality checked donated clothes. 

“This experience definitely made me realize how privileged I am and how much I take for granted in my life. It made me want to live with more empathy because I left the shelter feeling really positive and grateful,” Fuder said. “This whole experience taught me that there is no greater gift than the act of giving without any expectation of receiving,” Jain said. “I strongly believe that it is our job as privileged students to give back to our community and use our resources for good.”