Educator Spotlight: Bernadette Olsen, 2017 Affiliate Teacher of the Year

By AAFCS Team posted 12-01-2017 12:00 AM

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Making a Difference
:  "Foods and Nutrition Class Restaurant Menu Design Challenge"

This edition spotlights Bernadette Olsen as the 2017 AAFCS Affiliate Teacher of the Year for New Hampshire.  Classes are designed to scaffold skills toward the development of independent, problem-solving adolescents. Students work in groups to design a variety of new menus for a local restaurant, creating and evaluating meals based on given parameters. Student work is published on the restaurant menu and featured on television, authenticating the project, highlighting student success, and increasing visibility of Family and Consumer Science.

Program Focus:
My Family and Consumer Sciences classes are designed to scaffold skills toward the development of independent, problem-solving and self-sustaining adolescents. Each class has a focus such as designing and creating costumes for the school spring musical in Costume Design, or developing a sense of direction toward career readiness and financial literacy in Independent Living. The academic focus of the Foods and Nutrition class is to evaluate scientific information, use reliable resources, and develop skills and techniques to create nutritious snacks and meals independently with safe and sanitary practices.  Working toward that goal, the class studies efficient work triangles and traffic patterns, investigates microorganisms associated with food production, food spoilage, and food borne illness, practices sensory analysis skills to evaluate properties of prepared foods and bolster descriptive vocabulary, and analyzes nutrition and ingredient labels to support healthful meal choices. To engage the students, each of these topics has authentic
projects designed to make the learning applicable to real world experiences. This year, I collaborated with the District Foodservice Director to incorporate a tour of the school foodservice facility to the safety and sanitation unit of study in class.  My work on the school Wellness Committee has allowed me the opportunity to develop a sustained connection between Foods and Nutrition students and several dynamic staff members from a local restaurant. The Marketing Director and Chef visit Foods and Nutrition class on a regular basis to discuss their career paths from middle school student to their current positions at the restaurant.  Chef demonstrates knife safety and preparation skills, and makes samples for each student. Various authentic challenges are presented to students. One such challenge was to design a new Children’s Menu for the restaurant that fell within the parameters the Chef outlined (seasonal, nutritious, appealing to children under the age of 12, an item not on the menu already, creatively named). Student work is showcased at the
restaurant through its publication on the printed menu! That particular project was highlighted on the restaurant’s Facebook page and on local television news station WMUR “Cooks Corner”. Subsequent challenges have included the design of “Chef’s Creations” that are featured on the restaurant’s
weekend menus. Currently students are planning a contest based on the television show “Chopped” with a community audience.  Authentic projects encourage students to brainstorm to work within the project parameters and outside the box. Students create a variety of dishes that are seasonal,
focus on fresh and local ingredients, and bring family traditions and customs to light.  Students access reliable online, classroom, and media resources to research menu items. Student work is published online and in print by the restaurant, and is featured on local television, thus authenticating the project, highlighting students, promoting the school-to-community connection and increasing visibility of Family and Consumer Science.

School/Community Setting
The town of Hooksett is located in south central New Hampshire, along the Merrimack River between larger cities Concord and Manchester. Although there are kindergarten through eighth grade schools in the neighboring towns administrated by the same School Administrative Unit, Cawley Middle School is the only school to offer Family and Consumer Science courses of study. Hooksett does not have a high school of its own, instead, students may attend one of nine high schools in neighboring towns.  Cawley Middle School has a total enrollment of 486 students, and 93 students receive free and reduced meals. 

Why did you "Say Yes to FCS"?
Margaret Mead said it best:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

In my southern New Hampshire school district, I am the only Family and Consumer Science teacher. In my classroom sit students at all levels of learning from a variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. My goal when planning any lesson is to impart skills that affect individuals, that in turn affect families, that in turn affect the community. I like to think I am changing the world, every day, one period at a time.