During a shortened week before break last month my students rolled out festively-shaped gingerbread cookies. The lesson I learned is that the less sugar time I have with my students the better.  The cookies went off with minor hitches — because if you believe you have a hard time getting two or three kids agreeing on food to eat, think about working with seventy-five over the course of a week:

Student: “What!? Gingerbread cookies?! I want chocolate cookies!”
Student: “No! I don’t like chocolate I want lemon cookies.”
Student: “We never use sugar.”
Teacher (me): “There is sugar right there.”
Student: “Psh, brown sugar.”
Student: “These cookies are making my legs twitch.”
Teacher (me): “Are you okay? Allergies? Seizure!?”
Student: “No, with love.” (Does that mean the cookies are a success?)

We’re making cookies people!? Cookies!

Regardless, even the naysayers and those of twitchy legs succumbed to cookie rolling, decorating and eventual joy, and were sent off to winter break with bellies brimming of sugarplum-gingerbread fairies.

The K/1’s squirrel their sushi rolls– using chopsticks to boot!

But when our first week back from break began I was more than a little nervous. If sugar cannot make these kids happy vegetable sushi rolls really can’t. To top it off, my Thursday kindergarten-1st grade class would have visitors from the Film Club documenting the making (and hopefully, eating) of sushi. Fingers were crossed tight as the week began.

To my surprise, (most) of the little chefs were thrilled to make sushi. I am talking jumping up and down, this is more exciting than cookies thrilled. I am talking even the ones who claim they only eat white rice and white chicken were thrilled. I am talking even the ones who will try absolutely nothing… okay, they licked it– but were thrilled making it.

Why?

While these are New York City kids I work with, I can only guess that sushi is still a fairly foreign thing. Few of these kids would likely make it at home (really, I never made it before this week, maybe adding to my fear). Sushi is likely also considered a very adult food, yet still so fun– How many foods do you get to use a special wooden drumstick to eat with? Really though, it is so easy to make, more should do it!

I cooked up the rice and added a little seasoning. Laid out the seaweed and set an array of goodies out: avocado, sprouts, carrots, cucumber, sweet potato and sweet peppers. The kids would get to stuff the sushi with whatever they wanted. I requested a one vegetable minimum, despite objections from a few claiming they did not like anything, everyone found something they were happy about in the end. My adventurous chefs stuffed their rolls magnificently with an array of color — “Try to make a rainbow!” I encouraged, “It will look, and taste, amazing when we cut them!”

Still, as Thursday grew closer I grew more anxious. Did I invite disaster by allowing the film students to enter this kindergarten/1st grade classroom on something so vegerific?

To my great surprise Thursday was one of my most daring classes of the week. Beautiful rainbow creations came out of everyone. (Okay, a few cucumber rolls, but hey, they sell those at restaurants, right?) And as the cameras rolled, a student turned with fist triumphantly in the air and declared:

“I am a sushi master!”

Really? You can’t get a much better reaction than that.

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