"What's the first thing a good cook does before doing anything else in the kitchen? Right! She washes her hands with soap and water...."
Thus began the cooking portion of the class of twenty-six 3rd graders earlier this week. And you'd better believe the groups I am teaching Thursday and Friday will be practicing good hygiene, too. I mean, schools are veritable germ factories and elementary school students seem particularly prone to regular nose wiping and shoelace tying and virus smearing. (While I have mostly gotten past my hypochondriac tendencies, I also know that I am a terrible sick person... too impatient... and I have classes to teach!) Half of the stuff we'd be eating at the end of class was going to be chopped and served raw, to be dipped in the (also raw) pesto we were making. So before they even headed over to the sinks, I made sure my young sous chefs knew that they were grown up enough to practice "surgeon hands."
Yep, visualize a roomful of 8-year-olds walking around with their hands up in front of their faces, bent at 90 degrees from the elbows and carefully scooting out their chairs using one foot and you could be a fly on the wall of the FoodPrints classroom last Monday. "You're in third grade now," I told them, very seriously as I demonstrated, thankfully without tripping over the chair myself, "so I know you can handle this." And they could. Hands-free chair scooting? No problem! Self-directed hand rewashing? Like clockwork. I noticed a few of them patiently tapping a tablemate on the shoulder and pointing out that there had been an inadvertent face scratch or nose rub or hair adjustment, that it would be wise for the (mildly) accused to rewash and come back with surgeon hands. "If you need to touch anything," I overheard one student matter-of-factly reminding another one, "hold on to your other clean hand."
I probably should have followed my own advice and not been nibbling on the remains of my own plate of food while packing up the classroom and wiping down tables after class ended. Well, I wasn't making food for other people at that point. If I get sick, it's my own fault. (Do what I say, not what I do....)