Epernay sous chef Floyd George stood Saturday morning at the back of the Frenchtown Community Center, his tall and fit frame towering over the crowd of children seated at his feet.
“See these muscles?” George said, holding up his well-defined biceps to his audience. “It’s because I eat good food.”
George, who demonstrated how healthy foods like broccoli, rice, and red snapper can be fun to prepare and tastier than fast food, was one of close to 20 area professionals who taught practical, hands-on lessons to several dozen children.
The free activity was organized by volunteer teacher’s aide Cecille Arbour, who is studying education at the University of the Virgin Islands. Arbour said she designed the student-centered project to meet the American Museum Association standards. Arbour hopes to not only get class credit for the project now, but grant funding to make more community-centered learning sessions happen in the future.
Across the teaching stations that fill the recently renovated center, adults taught children how to make their own soap, plant a vegetable and flower garden, and – in the case of nurse midwife Cynthia Stapleton – chart a sustainable career.
“Nurses are really needed now,” Stapleton said.
“And yes,” Stapleton added, looking at the boys in the crowd, “I have worked with male nurses, so do not feel that you cannot be a male nurse, that you cannot be a male midwife.”
UVI Chemistry Department Chairman Dr. Stan Latesky and his assistant, Cetewayo Shango, helped the children make fun soaps in bright colors to take home.
“Now, your mom doesn’t have to tell you to go bathe because we have soaps you all will want to go use,” Shango said, prompting laughs from the parents in the crowd.
While Latesky helped his energetic charges pour soap into dinosaur and angel molds, his Chemistry Department colleague, Dr. Justin Shorb, encouraged the little learners to make their own tasty toothpaste from baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and essential oil flavors, such as root beer and mint.
Martial arts instructor Joseph Leonard told the children how his classes could teach them discipline and keep them fit, while the uniformed V.I. Port Authority Fire Fighter Services Crew Chief Adrien Kean thrilled the kids by giving them plastic firefighter hats to wear home.
Chef Cory Magras, of Cory Magras and Company, prepared a fresh fruit salsa with cilantro, scallions, mango, pineapple, and extra virgin olive oil. While some children learned to love fruit and vegetables a little more by devouring Magras’ colorful salsa with chips, others sampled small plates prepared by George and the other folks from Epernay.
Munching on the seasoned red snapper were Trinity Colbourne, a seventh-grader at Addelita Cancryn Jr. High School; her classmate, Kaysha Mulcare, and her sister, Ulla F. Muller Elementary School sixth-grader Destiny Colbourne. The trio had come to the Community Center as part of their regular participation in Cancryn’s after-school program, which provides free, fun, and educational Saturday activities for kids.
Saturday’s excursion to the Frenchtown Community Center was a very fun one, the girls said, going on to rapturously describe the ingredients in their healthy snack.
“It’s got lime, and rice, and thyme,” Trinity said.
“It tastes very good,” Kaysha added.
“And red snapper and broccoli,” Trinity piped in.
“And onion and red pepper,” Kaysha finished.
As they cleared their plates, it seemed very likely that these girls would seek out another Saturday morning education session – and its health-promoting lessons – if such a thing were offered again.
“This is the first time I’ve tried this,” Destiny said, “and it tastes awesome.”