After-school program offers Pivik students French food for thought

| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 8:24 p.m.

Molly Giles and Abigail Haerr were looking for something different to do after school.

When they heard about the “Kids in the Kitchen” program at Pivik Elementary School, the two sixth-graders eagerly registered.

The no-bake cooking class, complete with kid-friendly French recipes, was taught each Wednesday in November by Oblock Junior High School French teacher Courtney Mendenhall.

“We'd like to travel together to France,” said Molly, 11, of Plum.

Mendenhall taught the children about French cuisine, combined with a lesson in French language and culture during the PTA-sponsored program.

“One of the Pivik PTA's purposes is for boys and girls to develop healthy life skills with cooking in a no-bake environment,” said Pivik PTA President Francine Nichols.

“This class specializes in French culture, cuisine and language. The children learn all about good and healthy food, good nutrition and the cooking skills to bring them together.

The Pivik PTA has 417 members. There are 549 Pivik students, Nichols said.

In last week's class, Mendenhall instructed 18 students, who donned aprons, on making breakfast parfaits that contained cereal, blueberries, strawberries and yogurt; dessert parfaits of chocolate pudding and raspberries; and ‘faux frites,' or french fries.

The children had the options of eating the food during the class or taking it home.

“ ‘Parfait' in French means perfect or almost perfect,” Mendenhall told the children.

“When I grade French tests at Oblock, and the students get almost all the answers correct, I write, ‘Parfait.'”

Kathie Haerr, 39, Abigail's mother, said she was pleased her daughter was getting exposed to a foreign language that she could opt to study in junior high.

“They will recognize the French words they are learning,” Kathie Haerr said.

Nathan Mienke, 8, a second-grader, said he enjoys learning about a foreign country.

“And I like making (food),” he said.

Don Klinsky's daughter, Allison, 10, a fifth-grader, was looking for some introductory cooking lessons.

“She wants to feel comfortable in the kitchen without mom and dad,” said Klinsky, 45.

“I thought it would be cool,” Allison said.

Mendenhall said exposing elementary-age children to a foreign language is beneficial.

“Their brains are sponges,” she said.

Mendenhall said the students followed directions well.

“They had a good attitude and were excited,” she said.

Mendenhall aims to reconnect with the students when they get to Oblock Junior High.

“I hope it (the program) gets them excited about learning a foreign language and culture,” she said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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