Students from PS 282 make guacamole at Palo Santo. When Jacques Gautier, chef at Park Slope's Palo Santo restaurant, first asked students from PS 282 to name the five flavors, the first child he called on volunteered "chips." When Gautier said that was incorrect, half the students lowered their hands. Just weeks later, those same students could name all of the flavors — sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and even pungent — and they could also have a conversation about what fruits are in season, thanks to a 14-year-old program that each October brings professional chefs into elementary school classrooms for food appreciation classes. The Days of Taste program, offered free to schools by the American Institute of Wine and Food, this year paired about 2,000 students at 22 city schools with 63 restaurants for a four-session course on food, nutrition, taste, cooking, and the restaurant industry. Before the PS 282 students visited Palo Santo, Chef Jacques had taken them to a local greenmarket, where they sampled unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, and visited the school twice to teach food vocabulary and salad-making. Yesterday, the children toured the restaurant, made fresh limeade, smashed avocados into guacamole, and molded dough into an El Salvadorean dish called papusas. Then they sat down at a table they'd set themselves and enjoyed the lunch they'd prepared.
State Senator Kevin Parker of Brooklyn meets with charter school students at the Brooklyn Museum of Art last night (Philissa Cramer/GothamSchools) Charter school boosters are often seen throwing compliments at Mayor Bloomberg. So yesterday it was a little surprising to hear a state senator, Kevin Parker, in one breath sing the charter gospel and in the next lambaste the Bloomberg administration for its management of the public schools. At Brooklyn Charter School Night yesterday, Parker told me that his position isn't really a contradiction. Everything he loves about charter schools, he said — their freedom from bureaucratic restrictions, their creative spirit — is absent from traditional public schools. And he said that charter schools' long waiting lists reflect families' frustrations with district-run public schools.
I mentioned in a previous post that two charter school students from Harlem were among those testifying in favor of extending term limits at the City Council earlier this month. Their school head, Seth Andrew of Democracy Prep, sent me their testimonies, which he said they drafted on their own, on blank pieces of paper, by hand. Andrew said the students had the opportunity to testify either for or against extending term limits. Both came out in favor. (Not a surprise, since Andrew also said that his students testified at the invitation of James Merriman, the executive director of the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence and a political ally of Mayor Bloomberg.) The testimonies are worth a read. Here's how seventh-grader Daniel Clarke Jr. explained the connection between term limits and education: Well, this chancellor has made a lot of progress in seven years, but he’s not done…YET. My school goes from grade 6 to 8 right now, but we are supposed to grow all the way to grade 12. Unfortunately, we can’t do this without a public school building, and this chancellor says he wants to give us one. He wants to close bad traditional schools and grow good ones like mine. If you pass this bill, my school will have a chance to take me all the way to college. If you don’t, the progress can’t continue and my school might not be able to grow. But I deserve a great high school, and there aren’t any others in my neighborhood like Democracy Prep that are open to all kids. Term limits prevent my family from having a choice, both in schools and in mayors and what we need are more choices, not fewer. This bill is not about Mayor Bloomberg or the City Council; it is about giving our community choice, voice, and progress for the kids of New York City. Thank you for Listening, I’m Daniel Clark Jr. The full testimonies are after the jump.