Just as necessity spawns invention, calamity is breeding ingenuity on the earthquake-ravaged campus of Kennedy High School.
Barred from her kitchens in the damaged B building of the Granada Hills campus, veteran home economics teacher Suzanne Gutsch is teaching her students how to cook in ovens of foil-wrapped cardboard boxes over coals set in aluminum pans.
"Most of these kids have never cooked before," said Gutsch, who learned outdoor cooking skills as a Girl Scout leader. "Anything you can make at home, you can make in a box oven."
Before the Northridge earthquake, Gutsch taught the Independent Living course, which includes a unit on cooking, in a classroom equipped with six mini-kitchens.
Now, having relocated to one of 60 bungalows brought in after the quake, Gutsch is making do with what she has--as are many of the science, art and physical education teachers.
Their labs locked in crippled buildings, students in a physiology class dissected a fetal pig on a table in a bungalow, using 2-gallon jugs of water to wash their hands. Marine biology students used scissors to cut up a dogfish (a kind of shark) on tables covered with paper and plastic. Banned from still-closed locker rooms, students in physical education work out in their school clothes.
"There's never a dull moment here," said Assistant Principal Pete Fries. "Everyone's had to be really flexible."
On a roped-off plot of cement just outside the old home economics room, Gutsch's class was no exception.
Students prepared coals by stacking them in tin cans, then spreading them into aluminum turkey pans. Then they piled foil-wrapped chicken breasts, whole potatoes and corn directly onto them. For dessert, the students baked brownies and cupcakes by setting pans on racks with coals around them. They turned foil boxes upside-down over the pans to create ovens.
As smoke from the coals wafted into the air, about two dozen students sat around picnic tables sampling the fruits of their newfound cooking skills.
"It's something people should know how to do," said senior James Davis. "You never know when an earthquake's going to happen."