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A taste of Africa at Super Summer School
Clean up is an important part of cooking at Super Summer School. Lily Meehan (right) washes dishes and Becca Dailey dries them.
McKayla O’Brien (left) listens as Kate Chiasson gives directions to prepare couscous at home.
David Pelletier wonders if the pumpkins in the school garden will ever grow.
DIXFIELD -- Students in the Super Summer School program at T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School have prepared and tasted food from other lands. This week it was couscous from Africa.
“We did Mexican food last week,” explained Caley Child, a soon-to-be sixth grader. “Next week will be Chinese food. I can’t wait because it’s my favorite. My friend’s parents own a Chinese restaurant, even though they are Burmese.”
Kate Chiasson, University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Oxford County, aids the students and slips in some nutrition hints as well. “With the Olympics scheduled to start this week, we’ve used an international twist to get kids to sample different foods. Today, we focused on fruits,” said Chiasson.
Lily Meehan described, “Couscous is like rice but smaller. It’s African. It was a dessert rather than a meal. We used sugar, cinnamon, pineapple and other fruit. I liked it.”
Not surprisingly, couscous was a new experience for all of the students except one. All of them liked the dish they prepared.
“Many times couscous is used as a main dish,” explained Chiasson. “You can add chicken and vegetables to it to make a meal. Or you can also have it as a dessert with warmed up fruit like we did today.”
As part of the Choose My Plate nutrition program, Chiasson urged students to fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables. Gains, like couscous, make up another quarter of the plate. The final quarter is for proteins like meat, fish and eggs.
To connect students more closely to their food, they care for two school gardens. One in front of the school has mainly herbs. The other in back of the school grows vegetables. Like many area gardens, production is low so far.
According to David Pelletier, who will enter sixth grade, they do lots more than just cooking and gardening. “We do wood carving and art,” he said. “I liked wood carving because I made a bark house. A bark house is made out of bark.”
The Super Summer School program is open to Dirigo students entering sixth through eighth grade. The program began on July 10 and will continue until August 2. It runs from 8 a.m. to noon and includes breakfast and lunch. Kim Dailey coordinates the program.
Barb Radmore, program director of Western Foothills Kids Association, commented, “Not as many kids took advantage of the program at Dirigo Middle School as we would have liked. I hope that the students who had so much fun will tell their friends next year and we can grow the program.”
The Super Summer School Program is partially funded through the 21st Century Learning Center grant from the federal government via the state of Maine. The remaining funding is from daily fees of $10 per student.