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Pssst! A New Farm-to-Table Restaurant in Brooklyn — at Success Academy Crown Heights
Cole Yaverbaum – May 10, 2017
Last week, something magical happened at Success Academy Crown Heights: when Ms. Sarnelli’s kindergarten class came back from science, they found their classroom had been transformed into a world-class farm-to-table restaurant. Where groups of desks had once stood, dining tables complete with menus, placecards, and an appetizer of fresh raw vegetables created a very different kind of learning space. As the scholars came in, their teacher, Ms. Sarnelli, and I worked on preparing a main course of gourmet mini pizzas and a dessert of fruit smoothie bowls.
The kids were really excited — after all, a surprise lesson from a guest teacher (I’m a special education teacher focusing on support services) featuring food is a very special treat for kindergarteners. The lesson, part of a Project Based Learning unit on supermarkets, would be a special one. And they weren’t the only ones eager to explore the world of food.
For me, food is a passion. I run a blog on nutritious eating for teachers (who often have incredibly packed days that can lead to cravings and unhealthy snacking), and I frequently share healthy, easy-to-make food options with other teachers at SA Crown Heights. In fact, I’ve even helped a few teachers at my school come up with full-scale nutrition plans — grocery lists, recipes, and quick snack options during the school day.
What we eat impacts us in every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately, many school lunches aren’t that healthy, and kids tend to ask for a bag of chips over a bag of carrots. That’s where education comes in: if we can teach kids that there is more to food than immediate gratification, they are empowered to make better decisions. In the short term, kids eating healthy means they can stay focused, have more energy, and learn at higher levels. Over the long term, they are keeping their bodies and their minds in shape for a lifetime of success.
Before eating, scholars learned how each ingredient in the meal could help them learn and play. They flexed their muscles after learning that mozzarella has protein, which boosts muscular strength.
The menus at Sarnelli’s created a fun atmosphere and encouraged scholars to practice reading ingredients like “chia” and “hummus” that many had never seen before.
The appetizer at Sarnelli’s Farm-to-Table Restaurant was a raw vegetable plate, apples, and hummus. Comparable in price to a bag of potato chips, each of these items offer important health benefits. Snap peas, for instance, are a natural energy booster, while the fiber in apples keeps kids full for a long time.
Scholars created their own baby pizzas, which were actually a healthy take on bruschetta. The combination of whole grain crackers, tomatoes, mozzarella, and chia seeds makes for a filling, nutritious, and dynamic small meal.
Tables at Sarnelli’s were topped with butcher paper “tablecloths,” menus, and plants (another classroom project to grow arugula). Scholars were encouraged to try everything on the menu — especially items they might have never tried before, like hummus and snap peas.
Children are so naturally curious, so the goal of the lesson was to channel that curiosity into building lifelong healthy habits. As they ate, scholars had plenty of questions: Where did you buy these ingredients? Why is whole grain better? What is the best kind of snack to have before playing soccer?
Smoothies are a healthy alternative to ice cream and other desserts and take less than five minutes to make, as I demonstrated to the scholars. Be careful though — they can be a bit messy!