- Sponsorship -

School never tasted so good

Food, Travel & Culture class a delicious addition

A science lab at East Grand Rapids Middle School carried the distinctive aroma of sushi recently when it was briefly transformed into an experimental kitchen.

Students in Pete Miller’s Food, Travel & Culture class held their own version of the Food Network’s TV show “Chopped Junior” to test their first-time sushi-making skills.

From left: Henry Cuff and Noah Mowery watch and encourage as Alex Tjoelker prepares his entry

As a live audience of classmates cheered them on — and offered suggestions such as “Don’t forget the broccolini!” and “Put the rice on the rough side, not the shiny side” — the four students selected to compete chopped scallions, seeded cucumbers, sliced raw tuna, rolled seaweed, placed pickled ginger and squirted artful dollops of spicy mayo and unagi sauce.

Judges were science teacher Becky Martin, yoga teacher Rebecca Dietz, and Jordan Plumstead, an EGRHS senior who as a middle schooler was a contestant on Chopped Jr.’s first season (episode 4, with Martha Stewart as a judge).

Entries including Kersten Sykes’ dragon roll with sriracha aioli, Cam Valdez’s pescatarian and vegetarian towers, and Sam Bragg’s uramaki were rated on ingredients, presentation and taste.

“I would have really liked this class,” Jordan said to Miller before the tasting began. And afterward: “They were really impressive, especially for doing it for the first time.”

Sam Bragg goes uramaki for his entry

Exploratory Classes

This is the second year the middle school has offered a Food, Travel & Culture exploratory class. The trimester class includes travel and culture videos such as the late Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” and mapping dives into various cultures that this semester include Japan, Iran and Vietnam.

In addition to Food, Travel & Culture, other new exploratory classes include yoga; an art offering that includes printmaking, design and drawing; net games such as tennis and pickleball; and sports officiating.

A climate and culture survey of students a few years ago prompted teachers to recommend a wider variety of elective offerings. A switch two years ago to a trimester calendar created new slots in the schedule for more exploratory experiences.

“The academic rigor is so high that for a lot of these students, their schedules don’t leave any time for them to explore anything extra they’re interested in,” Miller said. “In this class, at the beginning of the trimester there are a lot of kids who haven’t really touched a real knife before and been taught to actually use one properly.”

Miller also teaches two units of seventh grade geography, two units of eighth grade U.S. history and an outdoor living elective that includes nature journaling, fishing, survival skills and geocaching — essentially, an outdoor treasure hunt.

“One of my favorite parts (of Food, Travel & Culture) is their final project, when they identify a meal they will cook from scratch for their family,” he said. “How it turns out is not the grade; it’s that they take the steps to make it happen.”

- Sponsorship -
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


Students reopen fine-dining restaurant six months after closing its doors

GRCC’s The Heritage has reopened to the general public, with culinary students cooking, baking their way toward degrees...

Plotting for a plot

Students’ hand-drawn maps are meant for the safekeeping of memories and to spur ideas for when they write personal narratives...

Outdoor lover, zen seeker, middle-schooler hope-giver

Bill Cataldo is the new K-8 principal for Cedar Springs’ new Red Hawks Online virtual school this year. School News Network took some time to get to know him better in this edition of Meet Your Principal...

The year of learning differently

SNN asked a sampling of students from across the county how it’s going for them so far in a school year of multiple instruction models...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Making the best of it

Students, parents, teachers and others share their feelings about the start of this unprecedented school year...

Here come the students; schools try to be ‘prepared for everything’

Area school districts have to be able to switch instruction plans if the pandemic fires up again, and be prepared for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak in one of their schools...

Ready or not, school year begins as leaders adopt plans to teach, protect students

With most of Kent County’s public school districts opening next week, superintendents talk about their plans to educate students while trying to keep them safe from an unpredictable virus...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU