ELYRIA — The atmosphere inside the McKinley Elementary School cafeteria was quite loud just before 1 p.m. Tuesday as dozens of students sat down for lunch.
On first glance, the sights and sounds resembled a typical lunch room. Several kids were seated at tables digging into brown paper bags and lunch boxes for treats brought from home while many others were in line waiting for sloppy joes or popcorn chicken salad. As soon as the meal was had, kids darted out the door for a much-needed recess.
But if you weaved through the rows of tables and benches and made your way toward the back of the room, tables were in the form of a semi-circle and there everything you thought you knew about elementary lunch was gone.
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The tables were adorned with pastel tablecloths, nondisposable plates and silverware and flower centerpieces. Name cards told students where to sit, and a menu card displayed the meal that was going to be served.
Welcome to the McKinley Elementary Fine Dining Restaurant — where fifth-graders go to practice proper table etiquette and manners.
“Oh boy, let me tell you,” Kaylyn Strawderman said as she slightly rolled her eyes and smiled. “There is a lot you have to know. Did you know you eat with a spoon like this?”
Kaylyn was eager to demonstrate the scoop-away-from-the-body method of eating soup.
For two days, Kaylyn’s language arts class learned all about how to conduct themselves in restaurants and other social settings as a part of their language arts class.
“It’s been great. My dad yelled at me because I wouldn’t give him a fork until he said please,” said 10-year-old Ryan Streator. “This is the kind of stuff you will need all through your life. Maybe even to get a job.”
Such lessons are not unusual for language arts teacher Dawn Randall. She uses out-of-the-box methods to get her students thinking — readers may remember Randall from a recent Sunday Chronicle-Telegram feature describing how she incorporates nutrition lessons into her classes.
The students admitted that they had a lot of missteps when it came to manners — talking out of turn, talking with food in their mouths, hanging their heads down in their plates and not sitting like ladies with legs crossed at the ankles.
“Yeah, there is a lot to remember, but it’s fun, too,” said Michael Sweatt as he carefully used a knife and fork to cut a mouth-sized morsel of chicken.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.