Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In the Kitchen at TLS Duke

A conversation with Chef Justin and Chef Chris: By Monica Pallett

Justin Cole and Chris Burgess both came to The Little School from chef positions at some of the top restaurants in the Triangle.  Both share similar philosophies about food.  They believe in using fresh ingredients in every meal and sourcing those ingredients locally whenever possible.  Even though kids can be picky, they both feel strongly that kids can get used to many different types of foods if introduced to them regularly.  While they don’t believe in hiding ingredients – for example by pureeing vegetables and mixing them in a sauce – both chefs admit that getting kids to try new things, especially vegetables, can be a challenge.  “We have found that if you pick a kid-friendly food, such as spaghetti, you can include zucchini or mushrooms in the sauce and most kids will eat them,” said Justin.

Chris nodded and added, “My son started off at a more traditional daycare, not a high quality school like The Little School.  They served standard daycare fare – canned peaches, chicken nuggets, goldfish crackers, vanilla wafers.  We are still trying to undo the food preferences he developed because of that exposure.  Since coming to The Little School he has started to eat salad and couscous, things he wouldn’t touch before, even though we would regularly eat them at home.  There’s something about being in a group of peers who are happily eating what is served that helps kids become more adventurous eaters.”

Both chefs enjoy the unique challenges of cooking for kids, where things like seasonality can sometimes be more of an issue.  “In the winter we get lots of sweet potatoes and kale,” noted Justin.  “We’re still working on what we can do with kale that kids will like and eat.  A few weeks back we invented a recipe for potato and kale cakes that they all loved.” 

The chefs then launched into a lively conversation about what has worked, what hasn’t and some ideas they would like to try, like different types of dips made from vegetables or variations on cheesy bread and quesadillas.  “Yeah, carbs and cheese.  If we let some of the kids design the menu we’d have some variation on that theme every day,” they joked.  “We had a class today ask if we could have mac-n-cheese, quesadillas, and cheesy bread next week.  I mean, we’ll probably do it because we love the dialogue and the give-and-take,” said Chris.  “We’ll just figure out how to pair them creatively with the fresh vegetables in our pantry.”

Both chefs have adventurous palettes themselves and love Asian, middle-eastern and continental European cuisine with their culinary roots in traditional southern fare.  While cheesy bread may be the favorite of some, other TLS Duke kids love their Vietnamese noodle salad, Moroccan couscous, or eggplant ragout just as much, if not more.  “We’re also really fortunate to have such a diverse population here because of how international Duke is,” Justin reflected.  “We still cook with the range and sophistication we did in high-end restaurants but have the added joy of being welcomed by a chorus of happy kids shouting our names each day when we role our carts into their classrooms.”

A TLS Duke favorite is the chefs’ home-made hummus.  Kids love it with our homemade breads, corn chips, carrot sticks or cucumber slices.  Our version leaves out the tahini.  This is a great dish to make at home with your child.  It is simple and quick and requires no heating.

Recipe:  TLS Duke Hummus
1 15 oz. can garbanzos beans, drained (set liquid aside)
1 medium clove garlic
Juice from ½ lemon or 2 Tbs.; or 1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. liquid from garbanzo beans (or water if you don’t have reserved liquid from beans)
1.5 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. neutral oil (we use rice brain oil but canola or olive is fine)
½ Tsp. salt
½ Tsp. cumin
½ Tsp. coriander
Chopped parsley and paprika - optional
·       Combine garlic, lemon juice and reserved liquid (or water) in food processor (a blender will work, also)
·       Add ½ of garbanzo beans and process until smooth paste forms
·       Scrape down sides of food processor and add remaining garbanzos, begin processing in
·       Slowly add both types of oil until consistency of that of a thick puree (do this while processing) then add a little more liquid (or water) until desired consistency
·       Remove from food processor and fold in salt and spices, adjusting to taste

·       Garnish with chopped parsley, paprika and additional extra virgin olive oil as desired

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dr. Seuss is in the building!

Read across America week is one of our favorite events. This is when we get to invite the community to embrace their inner Cat in The Hat! Parents, teachers and kids alike all got into the silly spirit. As Amy A. put it, even the weather was down right Seussical. Though the ice storms put several kinks into our best laid plans, just like a Truffula seed the Seuss sprit broke though the gloom! Kids donned their wackiest Wednesday costumes, parents read their favorite Seuss tongue twisters, and even our wee-est babies got into the Foot-Book spirt by painting with their toes.  Here are a few photos form the week. 

The Rocketeers created a huge thank-you banner 

Mom's and Dad's held rapt audiences

Pop-up Suess!

Wacky Wednesday was just an excuse for Dana to break out this look
Abbie IS our personal Cat in the Hat

Seuss-isms everywhere

Wacky Wednesday!

The ALWAYS wacky Gnome class


Say no more
Brandie never disappoints with her who-hair!

The ice added a interesting challenge to our week

Despite the destruction it caused, the ice storm left beauty all around. A Seussical end to the week 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bumblebees. Art. Fun. Who could ask for anything more?

By Amy Smith and Leigh Showman 

For some in the Bumblebees room the best part of the day comes when the parents arrive and we can show them our cubby full of artistic creations. As a result of observing these moments in January, we decided to embrace it!  We sculpted the following activities around the children’s interest.
IMG_0675.JPGFirst we explored the color wheel concept and used primary and secondary colors to create individual color wheels.  The paint the children mixed for the exploration of color (wheel) was used to paint our watercolor paintings, the inspiration for which was drawn from books of famous watercolor art works.  

We also did an interpretive drawing activity where we gave the children specific instructions (draw a circle, two lines, etc) and embraced how different everyone’s creation was while using the same instructions.  We made “secret message” art using white oil pastel drawings that were revealed using watercolor paint.  

We did an exploration of self-portraits by encouraging the children to draw their own portraits while looking in a mirror.  They also had a photograph taken out in nature in a place they said best represented them.

We explored painting without a paintbrush by blowing air on paint through a straw and by painting with our feet. In small groups we melted crayon wax and used tape to create awesome canvases.

We explored not only two dimensional art, but also books and photos of other art that can be 3-D as well. We looked at buildings, sculptures, and statues as representations of 3D art and explored these in our various centers. We explored modeling clay and created pots and medallions that we later painted and decorated with beads.
Not only were we exploring our interest in making art, but also in learning about the impact art can have on a community. Previously we had taken a field trip to the Nasher Art Museum at Duke and learned that art isn’t just to be created and enjoyed at home, but that art could be displayed and shared with the community as well. When we started discussing all the things we knew about Art, we decided that we not only wanted to create art for ourselves, but that we wanted to share that art with our school family. We decided to put on an Art Show. 
The Bumblebees were definitely proud to invite their School Family to share their Art experience and enjoy some snacks and relive their love for art.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yoga is in Everything!

Once a week, I lead your child in a yoga class.  In my last blog entry, I described briefly what that looks like. This time, I want to describe a little more what the intentions are behind what we do and how they relate to Conscious Discipline and the rest of their day at school.

 For Valentine's  Day, we thought about our community at The Little School (Chapter 2 in the Conscious Discipline book - We are all in this together).  With watercolor paint and crayons, we decorated paper hearts and put them up on the wall.  I asked each child to think of someone at school who they would like to send some love to.  For some, this was a difficult concept.  Their immediate thoughts of love were about their families.  But once they thought about it, they came up with the people at The Little School who mean something to them...their favorite teacher, their favorite chef, their best friend.  A few decided to put their own name on their hearts, a choice I welcomed.  Yes, it is important to love ourselves.  Others decorated their paper hearts for the fish in the fish tank.  One child dedicated their heart to a tree.  Putting the hearts on the wall was fun, too.  After I put tape on the back of their hearts, they were able to choose where they wanted to stick their artwork.  The intention for this project was not just to have the children make yet another Valentine, but to help them think about what it meant to really make something for another person and how that person might feel when seeing their name on a heart on the wall.

I did it!
One day, the weather was so nice, I took my yoga group out into the woods to look for signs of
spring (such as green leaves).  They immediately pointed up to the Pine trees and said, "There are some green leaves!"
"Ummm, yes, but those are green all winter long because those are evergreens," I explained hastily.  Oops,caught by the literalness of children once again.  Then they pointed to every green piece of moss they could find.  Once again I was a bit stumped.  Finally we began to see some tiny green leaves peeking up through all the dead leaves on the forest floor.  We walked carefully around them so they could grow and the kids even brushed some of the dead leaves away from them.  Kindness to living things - A yoga lesson in action.

I did it!
At the end of our walk, we came to a fallen tree that was just perfect for practicing our yoga balance and body-awareness tree-climbing skills.  The kids practiced walking along the tree and then stood lined up as the first one began to attempt to climb.  Spotting her from below, I watched, as she carefully tried different handholds and leveraged from her foot positions.  She got 2/3 of the way up and stopped to come down.  The next child began their climb.  Twisting around the trunk in a completely different style, he worked his way up to the first branch and smiled.  Ah, that magical moment of accomplishment.  Using my favorite Conscious Discipline words, I smiled back and said, "You did it!" giving the child the satisfaction of their own sense of achievement.  As each child tried the climb, they all eventually figured out how to get up to the first branch and some got even higher.  I pointed out that each time they made an attempt, they did a little better and that it took practice to get there.  If ever there was a more natural yoga lesson (and life lesson), I'm not sure I've come across it.
Jack and Molly help each other

The school staff have been studying Conscious Discipline Chapter 2, Encouragement, and I saw the results many times in my yoga classes.  One child who was brand new to the school was trying to do the "Rock and roll" pose and having a hard time.  The other kids had been doing this pose all year.  "Do you remember how hard it was when you first tried it?" I asked them.  They all started to encourage the new child with, "You can do it!" and "Do it like this, see?" as they showed him their way of doing it.  Another time, we were practicing the Tree pose and the children began holding hands with their friends in order to help them balance.
Kenji does the pretzel
with the Bumblebees
before naptime

I have begun to do yoga with one class before their nap-time and the teachers in The Bumblebee class have been doing this as well.  We start by doing The Drain, balling up our hands, tightening our arms, shoulders and face, taking in a deep breath and letting it all go.  This allows them to feel the tightness and tension and then recognize the difference in how it feels to let it go. Then we reach up and say goodnight to the sun and bend down to touch our toes.  After stretching for a bit, we get ready to get some sleepy dust and rub it all over our bodies.  Through touching their own skin, the kids are relaxing their own nerve endings and calming and soothing themselves.  Starting with our heads, we rub the sleepy dust all over our body down to our toes and gradually the kids come to sitting on their nap mats.  Then they do the Candle pose, lying on their back with their legs straight in the air.  "Wait for us to come blow out your candle," I remind them and the teachers blow their legs down and cover them up with their blanket and a hug.  More resources for bedtime yoga include:

2. Yawning Yoga - A Goodnight Book for a Good Night's Sleep

Goodnight. Namaste.  Until next time.  Yoga is in everything.

Miss Erin
Yoga, Gardening, and Outdoor Learning