QUILCENE — Students at Quilcene School eat food prepared by their classmates for lunch, and much of it is either grown on campus or sourced locally.
It’s part of the school’s Career and Technical Education program, which teachers say has been used as a model for other districts across the region.
Across four periods throughout the day, students work side-by-side in the kitchen, making meals from scratch, said Veda Wilson, who teaches the class.
She said the skills that students learn will help them get jobs.
“Everybody works in food service at one time or another,” she said.
Students split into four groups, covering hot food, baking, dishes and the salad bar. Every two weeks, they switch positions and who they work with, whether they like it or not.
“You work with who you work with,” in real life, Wilson said.
Students make most food from scratch, she said. That includes hamburger buns, rolls, Sloppy Joes, meat loaf, pie, cobbler and other dishes.
About once a week, the salad bar is filled with fresh veggies from the school’s garden. Students in kindergarten through sixth grade spend half an hour each week in the garden.
Meat, veggies and fruit is often sourced from farms across the North Olympic Peninsula.
When preparing meals, Wilson urges students not to waste any food.
“I drill into the kids that this program is funded by taxpayer money and we want to be very, very careful how we use that,” she said. “We rarely throw anything away.”
One of the students, Allanah Carron, an 11th-grade exchange student from Suriname, said the program has been eye-opening.
She cooked before taking the class, but didn’t pay attention to important parts of cooking, she said.
Before taking the class, she didn’t know what temperature she needed to cook meat to.
“I just cooked it and ‘OK, I’m done,’ ” she said.
Carron said she likes the program because it teaches every aspect of working in a kitchen.
“You get to bake, you get to cook and you get to do dishes — even if you don’t like it,” she said. “I like the variety and that you get to learn how to do everything in the kitchen.”
Principal Sean Moss said that he knew about the program before starting at Quilcene School, but after seeing students in action he realized how amazing a program it is.
“I’ve seen a lot of CTE programs, but never one specifically in the kitchen to where students are used to prepare school lunches on a daily basis,” he said.
“Coming in I knew about the program, however I couldn’t have envisioned how well it is run and how it runs at a higher level than other kitchens with fully professional staff.”
He credits Wilson with how smoothly the kitchen runs and how much students enjoy the class.
“If you have a chance to be here during lunch and see how exciting everything is, it goes beyond just serving food,” he said. “You’ll see Veda interacting with all the elementary kids who are quiet as a mouse listening to her. It forms a sense of community.”
While students work in the kitchen, students in another CTE class — taught by Sue Bettinger — are getting hands-on experience with graphic design and Microsoft programs. She also has taught such classes as personal finance.
The students in her graphic design class are learning Adobe Illustrator and other programs using the latest technology, she said.
“We try to mirror [the real world] as much as possible,” she said.
Just before Christmas break, students unboxed new Wacom tablets that allow them to draw on the computer using a pen instead of a mouse.
“Some of us were crying,” one of the students said.
She also heads the work-based learning program that allows students to earn credit for work or volunteer experience.
“I want all the students to do it because it’s great,” she said. “Even if they get CTE credits here, it’s great to get real-world experience.”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.