Formal Lunch

Traditionally, kids don’t get excited about setting the table, cleaning their plates, and tidying up. It’s no fun! Unless, of course, it’s part of PKS’s formal lunch series. At formal lunch, they dive into all of the above, and even consent to incorporate table manners. Hmm, this sounds too good to be true, you say? 

On a typical day, every student at PKS brings or buys their own lunch, and each student brings their own culinary and cultural traditions to the table. About four years ago, a PKS parent saw a golden opportunity for learning and sharing. Could we create a regular occasion to share family traditions with classmates? How would students react to sitting down together for a joint “Formal Lunch” -- could they even motivate each other to learn and practice table manners?

The idea was an immediate hit with parents, teachers, and students. Each quarter, families in all PKS classrooms sign up to prepare lunch for the entire class. In addition to providing a home-cooked meal, the parents also share cultural or family traditions with their students’ classmates during the meal. Over the years, meals have included classroom Thanksgiving and Rosh Hashanah feasts, Chinese New Year, and French, Italian, Indian, South American, Japanese, and Middle Eastern traditions. 

In a kindergarten class last year, one family brought homemade Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and traditional Lingonberry condiments, and shared stories about the family Sunday dinner tradition in the dark, cold winter in Scandinavia. “Formal lunches are my favorite time of the year,” one student raved.

While absorbing new customs from their friends, students also work hard to make the experience special. One group sets the classroom table with tablecloths and real china, silverware, and glasses. Another group of students serves their classmates, and a third group manages cleanup. In the process, we introduce a few table manners, such as always speaking with an empty mouth (sometimes challenging for talkative children). Children look forward to Formal Lunch for weeks before, and some students even dress up for the meal.

Like everything at PKS, learning is based on experience and presented in a manner accessible to children. And what’s more fun than trying new food and eating like grownups?