GREEN — “Keep your elbows off the table, chew with your mouth closed, and put your napkin in your lap.”
Those were the rules that Kyle Micken, nutrition services director for Roseburg Public Schools, told a group of fifth graders and their adult escorts Thursday night at Green Elementary School as they prepared to eat a four-course meal in the school cafeteria.
The annual event is designed to be a class on etiquette and table manners. Invited students and their parent or guardian got to experience fine china, tables covered with linen, flatware and glassware sets for the special dinner to learn what is expected when eating in a fine dining setting.
About 40 people were served at the event where students were encouraged to dress for the occasion. One boy was dressed in a three-piece suit and tie, shoes shined and hair perfectly combed. Many of the girls wore their Sunday-best dresses for the event.
“The kids dressed up great, all dressed up in ties and dresses and stuff like that, it’s very important to them,” Micken said.
Before the meal was served, the students went through some training on proper table manner etiquette. It was a classic case of having fun and not even realize you’re getting educated at the same time.
Micken hosts the event in different elementary schools each year and sets up a power point presentation to get interaction from the students to prepare them for thanksgiving dinner next week.
“The whole purpose is to provide an etiquette class for the kids in fifth grade because they’re going into middle school next year, so we can teach etiquette and why it’s important and give them a four-course meal because most of these kids at this age have probably never been to a nice restaurant before,” Micken said. “So this gives them the experience and it’s free so it’s a good program.”
Micken said the event can be just as educational for the parents as it is for the students.
“This is my 10th time, and most of the time the parents ask more questions than the kids,” Micken said.
Jaxon West, who was at the dinner with his daughter, Kaydence Schultz, 10, felt the learning experience would be valuable to her, but spending time with her was just as important.
“I think it’s a good thing for them, honestly,” he said. “I hope maybe to do it more often, going out to dinner somewhere once a week or once a month and just spending quality time.”
The meal, which was prepared by students from Sheri Carson’s Hospitality Class at Roseburg High School, included minestrone soup, caprese salad, chicken pesto with savory chicken and for dessert fudge brownies with edible cookie dough on top.
RHS sophomore Kambria Stone and a member of the Hospitality class, has helped with one of the dinners before.
“I really enjoyed it, it was really inspiring to know that little kids are getting the right take on what a meal should look like and how to eat it,” Stone said.
“I think it is absolutely adorable to have a little formal dinner with their parents, it’s cute,” said RHS junior Caroline Cody.
Green Elementary School Principal Amy Rodriguez said the dinner is a chance for parents and students to come together to have a nice dinner.
“They enjoy a nice quiet dinner and have that time just to be present with each other,” Rodriguez said. “He (Micken) teaches proper etiquette that probably a lot of kids in the fifth-grade never get exposed to, so this is awesome.”
Micken says many of the old-fashioned table manners have been lost over the years.
“Etiquette, unfortunately is lacking when people grow up nowadays, I hope they take away a great experience and I hope they learn from it, and they remember this is why we have two forks and two spoons and stuff like that,” Micken said.
Sodexo, the company that manages the Roseburg School District nutrition program, provided the meal at no charge for the students as a learning opportunity.