The Restart students spent a week recently earning ServSafe certificates, which they’ll need once the new kitchen at H.O.S.T. House is completed. At the end of our class time that Friday morning, everyone had earned theirs.
We all felt pretty good about that!
School might not have been the easiest for these students, and to suddenly be sitting in a formal class with a test looming at the end was pretty stressful. The class is now taught remotely, which didn’t make it any easier. But we persevered through (one of the major themes in the Restart program) to a successful outcome.
Once we completed the course, my goal was for us to review thoroughly enough that everyone would be able to pass the test. But another day of staring at screens wasn’t what any of us needed.
So, how to present the material in a way that it might stick in the students’ minds?
There’s a trick for remembering things: mentally exaggerate some aspect of the thing you want to remember, and add movement. For example, if you want to remember to get milk on your way home from work while you’re out, take a few seconds to imagine a huge milk carton dancing on your car. When you see your car, you’ll remember your mental image of the dancing milk carton, and so remember to pick up the milk. It works.
This idea came from a book that also recommended regularly doing things to shake your brain out of autopilot, such as walking backwards or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. Activities using your non-dominant hand stimulate both sides of your brain, while doing things normally uses only one side. Wish I could remember the name of the book. Seriously. I couldn’t find it online.
But we do incorporate some of the ideas, like dancing backwards around the room (music is used in the program). It’s supposed to build brain cells, and so improve memory – who couldn’t use that? And besides, it’s fun, and it loosens us all up – which means we all get more out of whatever the lesson is for the day.
Running back through the course, I got the inspiration to gather up items to represent all of the concepts. Soon, I had assembled a cast iron cricket (a cricket on the hearth is a sign of good luck and health in many cultures, but for our purposes represented a biological hazard), a stapler (physical hazard), a bottle of window cleaner (chemical hazard), a stick of deodorant (importance of good hygiene), a cooking gadget in the shape of a cross (cross-contamination) and a box of bandages under a disposable rubber glove, among other things.
In less than an hour after the last student’s Food Handler certificate was printed, I visited a local restaurant that I’d heard might be feeding those who are hungry in this difficult time, to offer our assistance. It would have been too cool for the students to receive their certificates and have a place to put them to use in the same day. But it wasn’t meant to be, nor was the soup kitchen we originally envisioned needing them for. Regardless, we’re ready to get to work, once the commercial kitchen is finished.
Pathway to the garden
In the meantime, when the students haven’t been in class or working on the construction projects (Naomi’s House, the commercial kitchen in H.O.S.T. House), we’ve been working on the garden. We actually started several weeks ago, making newspaper pots for starting seedlings and planting seeds.
The students built some raised beds last year, and this year added frames wrapped with chicken wire to go over them, to keep out the squirrel that lives in the backyard, among other pests.
We’re also working on a path from the front gate, using some pavers left over from another project. The students building the path will have a chance to build something into it from their time in the program: initials, date, hand print, or whatever else they feel inspired to add.
Those who complete the program later will also have an opportunity to contribute something permanent to the garden, probably by making a stepping stone. We’re also considering honoring our generous supporters with their own stepping stones.
To stay up with what’s happening with both H.O.S.T. House and Naomi’s House, please check out our Facebook pages: Host House Program, and Naomi’s House - Patterson.