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When the cafeteria staff members at Eugene Field Elementary School sponsored the annual Fancy Lunch event before Christmas, the children had a golden opportunity to demonstrate their best manners.
The Fancy Lunch has been provided to the children in the past, under the direction of cafeteria manager Charlotte Iman. The cafeteria is transformed into a restaurant with table decorations, low lighting, soft music and parent servers.
This year, the students also had the opportunity to show off the manners they have learned in the "Courtesy Cafe," which is led by counselor Amy Auwarter.
The Courtesy Cafe began this school year, at the suggestion of school principal Christine Harper. Auwarter visited a similar program at Hawthorne Elementary School, and researched what other schools have done to improve student manners.
"I looked at other programs, and then set up a room next to the office area," she said. "The room has softer lighting and seasonal decorations."
She takes one classroom of students in grades 1-5 per day to the Courtesy Cafe. The students carry their trays from the cafeteria, and then receive lessons on courtesy and bully prevention as they eat.
"The students seem to enjoy the quiet setting," Auwarter said. "In the cafeteria, most of the students talk at the same time and it is much louder. Here, students spend their time eating and listening. I also tell them that our taste buds change, and that it is important to try new foods."
Auwarter says she teaches the basics: no hats and gloves on the table, chew with mouths closed, say please and thank you, food to the face, not face to the food, etc.
One of the resources she uses is the book "Chicken Fingers, Mac and Cheese, Why Do You Always Have to Say Please?"
"I urge the students to practice their manners at home, also," Auwarter said. "I think it's very important to reinforce what the parents have taught."