Food-themed activities feed the minds of Village Project students this fall

The project will conclude for the year with a hands-on learning event held in partnership with Harvest Table Culinary Group on Dec. 4 in Alumni Gym.

Food was on the minds of hundreds of students from local schools and their families Wednesday night as they gathered at Elon for the closing night of in-class session for the “It Takes a Village” Project.

Not that they were hungry. This fall, food has been the underlying theme for a broad range of academic pursuits by students in the Village Project, with more than 300 students from all grades participating. They’ve been meeting each week and working with about 200 Elon students as well as university faculty and staff, along with teachers from Alamance Burlington School System schools. Food-themed instruction during Village sessions has highlighted reading, thinking, writing, public speaking and math offered in the context of real-life situations.

Village Project instructor Joseph Paturzo ’20 leading discussion and math instruction with eighth-grade students.

Children in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade participated in lessons focused on the cycle of food. Fifth-grade students worked to examine the economics of food, while middle-school grades used cooking elements to better understand mathematical concepts. High School students scrutinized food insecurity in Alamance County.

On Wednesday night, the students were able to offer the fruits of their work by offering oral presentations, creating “my plate” exercises and using other methods to explain their learning and research.

The impact of the Village Project extends beyond the local students and their family members to the volunteers who work with them throughout the year. Kyra O’Connor ’23 said she was nervous when she started working with the Village Project at the beginning of the semester, but those jitters were soon long gone.

Village Project tutor Jake Cisternelli making sure his sixth-grade student has the exact measurements.

“By the second week, I realized that the Village is so much more than teaching a child how to read,” O’Connor said. “Even in one semester, I know I’m a different and better person because I did the Village.”

Joseph Paturzo ’20 was the lead instructor for the eighth-grade students. “Participating in the Village Project was an invaluable experience that not only afforded me the opportunity to shape the learning and education of children from the local community, but learn from them myself,” Paturzo said. “The student’s passions, interests, and abilities never ceased to amaze me, and when coupled with the right resources, I know that the sky’s the limit for them.”

Wednesday night concluded the in-class portion of the semester, but it’s not the last time the Village Project will bring students, families and mentors together this year. On Dec. 4th, Harvest Table Culinary Group will partner with the Village Project to facilitate the experiential learning section of the program, with students and their families gathering in Alumni Gym. This partnership will extend students’ learning with the inclusion of hands-on activities aimed at bringing the context of various real-life situations related to food. The event begins at 5:30 p.m.